In 1993, WPI welcomed members of the incoming class to campus during the EMSEP (Excellence in Math, Science, and Engineering) Pre-Orientation Program, which was designed to help students of color adjust to WPI’s campus and persist through college. As WPI evolved, the EMSEP Pre-Orientation Program became known as Connections. Although the name of the program changed, the purpose and core values remained the same.
In mid-August, the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) welcomed members of the Class of 2025 to campus during the Connections Pre-Orientation Program. Connections at WPI provides a foundation for incoming students, who identify as students of color, first generation students, and/or students who identify as members of the LGBTQIAP+ community, to take their first steps into college knowing that they have folks across campus who are there to support them.
“Connections is something I didn’t know I needed heading into college. Having the ability to work as a group, establish friends, learn how the culture of WPI operates – all of that is essential to my experience at WPI.”- Humberto Torres ‘25
Throughout this week-long program, the OMA and many campus partners assisted new students with getting acclimated to college life and academics at WPI through networking opportunities, social activities, and academic course work. In addition to the staff and faculty across campus, incoming students were guided and mentored by a group of Program Assistants, or PA’s, who are upper-class students who also participated in Connections as incoming students.
“I moved into college not really knowing what was going on or what I was doing and connections helped put everything in front of me. Resources, where to find them, what to do, and of course, I was taught to make connections, with staff and students alike.”- Lucca Chantre ‘25
One important aspect of this program occurred when students were introduced to the WPI academic experience. Faculty members from several disciplines and departments taught mock lectures in order to model the pace of college courses, discuss academic expectations, and form connections with each student prior to their first college class or their first time walking into office hours.
“Connections has been one the best experiences of my life. I feel significantly better about starting classes at WPI!” - Ligia Machado e Portugal ‘25
Connections students also participated in interactive sessions about how to navigate WPI resources, how our Community of Care is manifested in everyday campus life, and the importance of tapping into their own salient identities both inside of and outside of the classroom. While the Pre-Orientation program occurred over one week, the opportunities for growth will continue over the course of their WPI careers, and the network that was built within the program lasts for a lifetime.
“Connections is a great way for people who are nervous about finding others like them to gather together for a week of bonding they’ll never forget. You’ll learn so much about campus, classes, student life, and WPI as a whole. After attending connections, there will be a friendly face everywhere you go and your confidence going into your first year will be so much higher.” – Caitlin Bagdasarian ‘25
Dr. Funmi Ayobami, Assistant Teaching Professor in Biomedical Engineering and WPI Alumna class of 2011, plays a role in the success of the Connections Program, and was a participant during her time as an undergraduate student. Dr. Funmi Ayobami serves as the Principal Investigator (PI) for the Great Minds/CoMPASS Scholars Program, a program for low income, academically talented, first-generation students from Worcester Public Schools (WPS) that provides orientation through participation in the Connections program, and navigation in attending and graduating from Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI).
Additionally, Rachael Heard, Assistant Director of Multicultural Affairs and WPI Alumna class of 2017, participated in Connections as an incoming WPI student and now serves as the coordinator for the current iteration of the program. In addition to a multitude of roles on campus, Rachael oversees the First Generation Success Program and also plays key roles with the Great Minds/CoMPASS Scholars Program and the LSAMP Scholar Program.
“Connections was a wonderful experience that made me come out of my comfort zone and have fun with friends I made along the way. The group leaders were amazing and I gained mentors I didn't expect.”- Kashish Kashish ‘25
We are grateful for the cross-campus collaborators who make this program possible every year. On behalf of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and the entire Connections Pre-Orientation Program, thank you so much to: