Starting classes, meeting peers, and exploring a new geographical area all at once may seem intimidating for many first-year students making the transition to college and campus life. But, it’s not like that for incoming first year students, according to staffers in the Office of the First-Year Experience at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Last month, from August 19-24, Rensselaer officially welcomed members of the Class of 2018, and introduced them to the local community through a weeklong series of events known as “Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond” (NRB), the official continuation of the orientation program. Created under The Rensselaer Plan in 2001, NRB is usually organized around three general themes: adventure/team building; cultural/historical; and community service opportunities; all designed to help students get to know one another.

When students arrive on campus, and especially in a new environment, it can be intimidating,” said Janelle Fayette, dean of the Office of the First-Year Experience. “As a new student, you’re thinking about moving into your residence hall, meeting your roommate(s), wondering what your first day of class will be like, and so much more. In addition, for the majority of our students, this may be the first time that they are living away from home, especially if it’s a great distance—for an extended period of time, so finding a way familiarize our new members of the Rensselaer community with not only the campus, but also the city of Troy and surrounding areas is an ideal way to lessen student stress.”

The incoming class of more than 1,330 students participated in more than 100 activities organized by Rensselaer staff, departments, and student clubs. The NRB program was supported by more than 380 student, alumni/ae, faculty, and staff volunteers.

Some highlights of the week featured: overnight trips to the Adirondacks and the Berkshires; volunteer opportunities with local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Capital City Rescue Mission to support housing construction, park clean-up, and serving meals to the homeless; building an electric vehicle or a hybrid go-kart; creating a giant Rube Goldberg machine, diving into the challenge of performing contemporary a cappella music; and learning a variety of modern forms of ballroom and Latin dances.

Members of the Class of 2018 also participated in a series of NRB activities that included: working with residents and current students to continue Hurricane Irene recovery and restoration efforts in Schoharie County; traveling to Windrunner Stables with the Rensselaer Equestrian Team to learn about riding horses; playing the sport of Quidditch; learning about Rensselaer traditions; working to produce and execute a live multimedia audio visual event; along with exploring sustainable building methods and then applying them to a real-world, hands-on project.

Signature campus and community-themed activities included the annual greeting at the 8th Street Approach, at which President Shirley Ann Jackson greeted and shook hands with each member of the class. In addition, students, faculty, staff, and members of Troy and surrounding communities had the opportunity to attend the annual Welcome Festival, a free Communiversity celebration featuring live entertainment, outdoor activities, arts, and crafts.

The week’s activities culminated with the First-Year Convocation event held in the East Campus Athletic Village Arena. Members of the Class of 2018, President Jackson, and other members of the Rensselaer community participated in the event. The ceremony, hosted by the Office of University Events, featured guest speaker Kim M. Lewis, associate professor of physics in the School of Science. The ceremony also included a video compilation of the week’s activities.

“We want our students’ transition to college life to go as seamlessly as possible,” Fayette said. “NRB helps students forge new lasting friendships and create memories that will sustain them through four or five years of academically challenging course work. The goals of the program are to build affinity groups that bring students with similar interests together as well as helping students create strong, stable social communities inside and outside of the residence halls and classrooms. The ‘Beyond’ component of NRB represents the continued support given well into the year.”

For more information about the NRB program, visit:

To view the 2014 Navigating Rensselaer & Beyond video, visit:


Note: Join the social media discussion. Follow the Class of 2018 on Twitter using the hash tag #RPI2018.