Surbhi Bharadwaj

Dwight Hall will expand its Freshmen-in-Service Program to accommodate more students next year after a sharp increase in demand for spots this fall.

FISP is a yearlong program coordinated by Dwight Hall that prepares freshmen for leadership roles in community service. Admission to the program was more competitive than ever this year, with an acceptance rate of less than 25 percent, said Dwight Hall Coordinator Anthony D’Ambrosio ’18. Nafeesa Abuwala ’19, a co-coordinator for the program, said the cap was raised from 15 to 20 students this academic year in light of the surge in demand, adding that it will continue to expand to accept 40 students next fall.

“It was, after all, the most selective year in the program’s history, and we expect that the number of applications will only increase in future years,” FISP Co-Coordinator Matthew Coffin ’19 said. “We had a hard time turning away freshmen who were eager and willing to devote their time to service, which is why we are hoping to expand the program next year to double its current size.”

The admitted students are also diverse, consisting of three men and 17 women, most of whom are women of color, Abuwala said. She added that each applicant had a different background in community service, which demonstrated that “service is not a monolith.”

According to D’Ambrosio, the newly launched Social Innovation Lab — a Dwight Hall program that focuses on developing innovative or experimental ways of addressing a social need — may have contributed to the growth in application size, adding that many freshmen have been attending the program’s events consistently.

Coffin said freshmen in FISP have a busy schedule lined up for the fall semester, including weekly volunteer services at local nonprofits such as Leadership, Education and Athletics in Partnership, New Haven Reads and Neighborhood Housing Services. With 40 participants expected next year, the program will likely divide students into two groups and have them organize different service projects for each group, Coffin said.

As a regular part of the program, the co-coordinators will also invite leaders from various nonprofits to campus to talk about their community service in New Haven, Coffin said.

“We view the program as a very rigorous commitment,” Coffin said. “We are asking our freshmen to give up most of their Saturday mornings to serve along with addition meetings throughout the week. We call Freshmen-in-Service a pipeline into Dwight Hall leadership, and for good reason.”

D’Ambrosio said the time commitment is about five hours per week, which he said was significant for a freshman’s fall semester.

Coffin said each FISP participant will be mentored by different members of the Dwight Hall Student Executive Committee during the spring term, who will prepare the freshmen to take up leadership positions in following years and select future committee members. The freshmen will also help the executive committee with projects and start their own in the spring, Coffin added.

“We are looking closely at these freshmen and the devotion which they display to our program, since we want the most dedicated and proficient leaders running Dwight Hall in the future,” Coffin said.

Dwight Hall was founded in 1886.