Martin takes over as director of the Center for the First-Year Experience

Nov. 15, 2012

On Dec. 1, Carren Martin starts her new role as director of the Center for the First-Year Experience after serving as interim co-director for the past year.

Photo: Carren Martin

Martin

Orienting freshmen and transfer students to life on campus is not new for Martin. Since 1997, she has worked in a variety of capacities at CFYE, a unit of the Division of Student Life, and has been a leader and student proponent on campus.

She recently led a campuswide Orientation Review Project that resulted in changes to the already successful Student Orientation, Advising, and Registration (SOAR) and Wisconsin Welcome programs.

Implemented last summer, the new program places a stronger emphasis on the academic advising process. It also provides parents and families with strategies and messages to support their students’ college transition.

Inside UW-Madison spoke with Martin about her new role:

Inside UW: Tell us how CFYE’s mission has evolved.

Martin: CFYE's mission has expanded greatly in the past 15 years.  Initially, our office was created to provide non-advising SOAR programming for students and their families, in addition to welcome programming aimed at new freshman students.  Over time, we developed a stronger focus on transfer students and other special populations, such as international students. 

We also grew to become a hub of SOAR coordination and helped to centralize the planning and implementation of the program.  During this time, we expanded the notion of orientation from thinking about the experience as a one- or two-day event to recognize and be sensitive to the transition process that occurs during the whole first year for freshmen and transfer students.  This has led us to connect more closely with the academic and classroom experience of all new students.

IUW: What excites you most about your new role?

Martin: I have always loved working with new students in transition and helping to design the processes to welcome them to campus and help freshmen and transfer students start their college experience off in the right direction.  I also enjoy work on student issues pertaining to their social and academic integration into campus.  I am particularly excited to continue working with the CFYE professional and student staff who are committed to doing high-quality and purposeful initiatives.

IUW: Are there advantages to being an internal hire?

Martin: I would like to use my experience on campus, connections with colleagues, and understanding of CFYE goals and initiatives to continue the momentum we have developed over the past several years.  I still have a lot to learn, but hopefully my experience will be an advantage.  On the flip side, it will be important to be open to fresh ideas and to seek out feedback from outside of CFYE and UW-Madison.

IUW: Last summer, a new SOAR model was adopted. Was it worth changing a 20-year-old program?

Martin: It was absolutely worth it. I am not a proponent of changing something just for the sake of change, and I believe that the new SOAR and Wisconsin Welcome models will lead to a more evenly paced and meaningful experience for our new students.  This has already been seen and documented in the academic advising experience for new students who reported feeling less rushed and better able to make good decisions about their course selection. 

We are also working to embed health and safety messages throughout the student’s entire first year.  Instead of overwhelming students with resource overload during SOAR, we are arming students with timely and relevant resources and information beyond SOAR and into their first year.

IUW: Are there other accomplishments from CFYE that you'd like to share?

Martin: I’m really excited about us launching several initiatives for transfer students, such as pre-college advising and the Transfer Ambassador Peer Program.  Transfer students make up a very diverse population with varying needs, and the Transfer Transition Program, has allowed us to look more closely at this group and provide a better transition.

IUW: What challenges does CFYE face?

Martin: One of our largest challenges is trying to centralize and coordinate experiences for all first-year students on a decentralized campus with a diverse population.  Communication and coordination with our campus colleagues is our biggest asset and can be our greatest challenge.  Staying on top of student trends and changing needs is also a challenge, which is also a way to keep our work interesting.

– By Darcy Wittberger