WPI Celebrates the 30th Anniversary of the Connections Pre-Orientation Program

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary

Connections Class of 2027 - 30th Anniversary Celebration

In 1993, Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) welcomed members of the incoming class to campus during the Excellence in Math, Science, and Engineering (EMSEP) Pre-Orientation Program, which was designed to help students of color adjust to WPI’s campus and persist through college. As the University evolved, the EMSEP Pre-Orientation Program became known as the Connections Pre-Orientation Program. Although the name of the program changed over time, the purpose and core values remained the same. Thirty plus years later, this legacy still endures.

On Saturday, August 12, 2023, the Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education (ODIME) welcomed members of the Class of 2027 to campus for the Connections Pre-Orientation Program. Dubbed Connections 2027, this year’s cohort brought together 71 undergraduate scholars and 13 Program Ambassadors (PAs) over a one-week experience to welcome and onboard a new Connections cohort as well as to celebrate the Connections 30th Anniversary at WPI.

Maya Ellis '23 '24 served as the 2023 Alumni Speaker and offered advice, wisdom, and retrospective on her WPI experiences and how they were shaped by the Connections Pre-Orientation Program, Electrical and Computer Engineering courses, National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Black Student Union, and the LSAMP Scholar Program.

"NSBE gave me the confidence to seek help and grow academically and professionally. I resonated with the mission of NSBE so much and wanted to give back to what supported me. I became [Chapter] President at the end of my sophomore year and stayed until I graduated. This led to invaluable leadership and networking skills that opened the door up for so many different opportunities. I urge you to find your equivalent of this community during your time whether that be through NSBE, SASE, or SHPE, to name a few." 

-Maya Ellis '23 '24, WPI Alumna

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - PA Training

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - PA Training

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Warren Conference Center

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Warren Conference Center

Connections is designed to assist incoming undergraduate students who are underrepresented in STEM or at WPI and identify as a first-generation college student; Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC); African American, Latino/a/x American, Asian American, Native American (ALANA); and/or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, Aromantic, Agender and Pansexual (LGBTQIAP+) make a smooth transition from high school to college.

ODIME continued our collaborative partnership with Undergraduate Studies by offering twenty-one (21) scholars the opportunity to take a free online summer course during the E2-term as part of the Connections Academic Immersion. This model allowed Connections 2027 scholars to truly get a snapshot of the WPI experience in anticipation for their first A-Term at the University. In our second year of offering this added experience, the goal continues to be adequately preparing students for the academic transition into WPI to allow them to begin developing and employing effective organization and time management strategies.

The 21 Connections scholars took the following E2-term courses:

  • AR 1100 - Essential of Art
  • CH 1010 - Chemical Properties, Bonding, and Forces
  • CH 2310 - Organic Chemistry
  • HI 1330 - Introduction to the History of Science
  • MA 099X - Algebra, Analytic, Geometry, and Trigonometry
  • MA 1021 - Calculus I
  • MA 1022 - Calculus II
  • MA 1023 - Calculus III
  • MA 2071 - Matrices and Linear Algebra I
  • MA 2201 - Discrete Mathematics
  • MA 2611 - Applied Statistics I
  • MU 1511 - Introduction to Music
  • PH 1110 - General Physics-Mechanics
  • PH 115X - Introductory Physics of Living Systems
  • PSY 1402 - Social Psychology

"This is one of the best and some of the funniest moments I have experienced throughout school. I would extremely recommend this program. Komlavi and Peter were amazing. Everyone here is super nice and shares a lot of the same passions or hobbies, making a ton of new friends."

-Connections 2027 Scholar

The week-long Connections Pre-Orientation Program (August 12-19) kicked off with a Campus Resource Fair, Welcome Session, Alumni Speaker, and Parent/Family Informational Session and Q&A. “You are more than capable of succeeding here…your stories, identities, cultures, and experiences matter and if no one has told you before, you are already enough,” was a message Arnold Lane, Jr., Director of Multicultural Education and Community Engagement delivered to students and their families using an additional note centered around perseverance.

"The Connections program is a process, trust it, and take full advantage of it. Use what you have gained this week as a foundation going into your first year at WPI. It [might be] scary to put yourself out there, but it can be worth it in the end." 

-Maya Ellis '23 '24, WPI Alumna

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Warren Conference Center

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Warren Conference Center

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Warren Conference Center

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Warren Conference Center

The Connections scholars also made their return to the Warren Conference Center where they participated in a series of teambuilding activities, ropes courses, and a BBQ. Throughout the week, scholars were encouraged to meet new people daily and fully immerse themselves in this new dynamic environment.

"The Connections program was a unique and important time for me. From understanding the campus and academic life to games and social events, it erased many of the fears and uncertainties that plagued my mind. The ice breakers and group activities cemented a friend group for me, and the sharing of each other's vulnerabilities and experiences has made a deeper connection with peers than I ever thought I would have. Connections was for me, a foundation that I stand upon now."

-Connections 2027 Scholar

ODIME continued our collaborative partnership with the Office of Government and Community Relations where former Director of Community Relations Katie Bilotta provided the Connections scholars with a private tour of the City of Worcester highlighting key neighbors, restaurants, shopping centers, the cultural district, and other go-to spots and city sites.

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Warren Conference Center

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Faculty Meet and Greets

The ODIME team and campus partners were also intentional about setting up team builders and networking opportunities with WPI faculty, staff, and our international scholars. Notable highlights of the week included Karaoke Night on Friday night and a Saturday day-trip to School Yaad with the Office of International Student Life and WPI’s newest international scholars.

"It was a great experience working with the Connections students. Shout out to Kris Billiar and Curtis Abel who were great to work with in running the session. And thanks to Deb Ofcarcik who got the materials we used."

-John McNeil, Dean of Engineering

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Program Ambassadors (PAs)

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - PA Training

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - PA Training

The Connections Pre-Orientation Program could not occur without the hard work and dedication of the Program Ambassadors (PA). PAs are valued members of the ODIME team who are trained to provide peer-to-peer leadership and support for students who participate in the Connections experience. They serve as peer educators who engage our newest WPI scholars in various aspects of their first year at WPI as they transition into college. They also serve as positive role models within the community, aid in student support initiatives, encourage personal growth in their peers, and provide lasting experiences to ensure student success. Alesia LeSane, Kalvin Cummings, Aidan Nunes '23 '24, and Naomi Treto '24 facilitated a robust PA Training experience the week prior to the arrival of the Connections scholars.

"Coming to the Connections program is one of the best choices I have made so far. I love the connections and community that naturally just started to happen. There's really no better place to I would want to be right now." 

-Ahmad Yusuf '27

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Making Connections

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Making Connections

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Class of 2027 Closing Dinner and Connections 30th Anniversary Celebration

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Class of 2027 Closing Dinner and Connections 30th Anniversary Celebration

ODIME concluded the pre-orientation program with the Class of 2027 Closing Dinner and Connections 30th Anniversary Celebration. President Grace Wang offered Welcome Remarks to the Class of 2027 Connections scholars encouraging students to continue building on the strong connections they built during the week and to make additional connections throughout New Student Orientation. President Wang also encouraged students to build strong connections with their faculty and to always seek help whenever needed. President Wang concluded her remarks by highlighting the importance of well-being and practicing self-care before congratulating ODIME on the 30th Anniversary of the Connections Pre-Orientation Program.

Former Connections scholars Jeffrey Estrada '19 and Emily Hao '19 participated in the 30th Anniversary Celebration with Estrada offering a retrospective on his WPI/Connections experience and offering words of advice for the newest cohort of Connections scholars.

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Alumni Speakers

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - Alumni Speakers

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - Class of 2027 Closing Dinner and Connections 30th Anniversary Celebration

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2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - International Connections

2023 Connections Pre-Orientation Program - 30th Anniversary - International Connections

The 2023 Connections experience was made possible by the generous contributions from Undergraduate Studies and Eric Hahn and Family, your continued support of ODIME’s programs and services is appreciated.

Special thank you to Alesia LeSane, Assistant Director for Multicultural Education and Student Success and the Connections Advisory Board for conceptualizing and facilitating the 2023 Connections Pre-Orientation experience.

The ODIME team is grateful to all of our campus partners and close collaborators who make this program possible every year. Special thanks and appreciation to:

The Office of Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Education (ODIME) promotes and oversees all student facing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) learning experiences, programs, services, trainings, and initiatives for WPI.