Freshmen Take an Early Plunge into College Life


Rev. Vincent DeCola, S.J., prepares excited Urban Plunge leaders for the arrival of incoming freshmen. (Mario Weddell/The Observer)

Published: August 25, 2010

Select members of the 2014 freshman class will eagerly jump into college life early through Fordham’s pre-orientation program, “Urban Plunge.” Previously, the three-day experience focused solely on service and justice, giving new students a glimpse at New York City through the eyes of social justice. However, this August, the program changed things up, expanding to include multicultural activities and the arts.

According to Rev. Vincent DeCola, S.J., assistant dean for the First Year Experience at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), part of the mission of Urban Plunge is to get students who might be interested in justice acquainted with opportunities for community service that exist in New York. The addition of  multicultural and arts activities is a reflection of the interests of the student body at FCLC.

“Since we are such a performing arts campus, we wanted to address what students want. Instead of session after session at orientation, these three days with small groups allow students to have good conversation and to start building community right away,” DeCola said.

“The issue of social justice in the arts, they’re all connected,” said Katheryn Crawford, assistant coordinator of community service at The Dorothy Day Center for Service and integral member of the Urban Plunge leader team. “Our job is to show this connection.”

The expansion of the program has resulted in an increase of attendance in both student leaders and incoming students. Currently, there are 64 freshman students and 29 leaders, compared to last year’s 40 students and 14 leaders.

Leaders of Urban Plunge arrived on campus Aug. 23 to begin their training, which will last until Aug. 27. They were chosen based on their desire and willingness to be a part of the program.

“We interview them and make sure they are bringing to the role proper interests to what the program is about and work seriously,” said DeCola. “Training is both information for their own development about racism and other issues of justice and also includes skill-building and how to lead discussions.”

Incoming freshman students will arrive Fri., Aug. 27, and complete a service project Sat. morning. They will then take part in an activity either in the arts or in culture. Some activities are interconnected and will crossover.

“One of the mornings, a group of freshmen and leaders will help out at a community garden, then visit a Buddhist temple in Chinatown in the afternoon,” said Crawford.

Another activity, according to DeCola, will include learning about Harlem in the morning and the opportunity to rehearse a dance routine with Alvin Ailey dance major dancer and Urban Plunge leader Chris Bloom, FCLC ’12. In the afternoon, students will be able to perform their dance at a senior center.

Urban Plunge doesn’t simply involve exploring the city and learning about justice, culture and the arts; it also has a strong focus on inner reflection.

“Friday and Saturday evening is time for reflection,” DeCola said. “Grounded in the Ignatian principle of learning through experience, this reflection time is important piece to the program.”

While Urban Plunge might cut some summers short a few days, its impact is worth it. It leaves many freshmen feeling more relieved and relaxed about starting college, allowing them to be more comfortable on campus.

“I think it will be a strong entry for them to become leaders in the Fordham community,” DeCola said.