New Verrazano School students recently enjoyed an Orientation session on the CSI campus. Photo (c) Brian Wong, licensed under CC BY-SA.

The Verrazano School held its Freshmen Orientation for the Class of 2016 recently, welcoming the incoming students by introducing them to life on the CSI campus. The orientation program included a student panel, campus tours, and team-building activities devised to help the 81 entering students feel more comfortable with their new surroundings and their fellow classmates.

Professor Patricia Brooks, Interim Director of the Verrazano School, welcomed the new Verrazano students in the morning by introducing the eager students to School’s academic expectations and the Honor Pledge. She encouraged them to take advantage of all that CSI and TVS have to offer.

Dr. Brooks has been the Interim Director of the Verrazano School since Dr. Charles Liu went on sabbatical last year, and she had much to say about her experience with the program. “It has been a great experience working with the students and staff of TheVerrazano School. The Verrazano students have had a great year with many accomplishments–it had been wonderful to get to know the students and to celebrate their successes with them.”

The incoming freshmen then took part in a Q&A session with a panel of some Verrazano School student leaders, where they received some invaluable advice on how to fully adapt to the Verrazano Honors Program.

“Fall in love with studying,” said Lisa LaManna, Class of 2012.  In fact, love was the theme of LaManna’s advice as she went on to tell the incoming class to “love your crazy schedule” and that “looking for a career is like looking for the love of your life.”

After the panel discussion, the incoming freshmen were broken up into several groups and spent the rest of the day touring the Library, setting up their CIX accounts with the Office of Information Technology, and, finally, taking part in team-building activities.

The term “ice breakers” was an understatement as the incoming freshmen hardily faced the sweltering summer heat with Project U.S.E—an experimental education organization that has facilitated the team-building component of the Verrazano orientation for five years. Once introductions were out of the way, the students began working in pairs to tie each others shoes and create secret handshakes.

Although hesitant at first, the students began opening up during one activity named “Alaskan Baseball” where one group of students were given the task of handing a rubber chicken to each other while the other groups designated a “runner” to accumulate as many “runs” as possible around his/her respective group. The students, at first disjointed in their attempts to score runs, became quickly organized and helpful, and the activity was a success.

As a cohort, this class of students will be spending the next four years taking classes, studying, working, and eventually graduating together. “The orientation is intended not only to provide information about CSI and The Verrazano School, but also to help them begin to establish relationships with peers and develop a sense of community and belonging here,” said Katie Geschwendt, Verrazano School Coordinator.

Although many of the incoming students are Staten Island residents, some are commuting from other boroughs for the chance to take part in the Verrazano School’s special program. “Just visiting the CSI campus clinched it for me,” said Crystal, an incoming student from Brooklyn. “It is worth commuting here.”

Mediha, an incoming student from Staten Island is already on the CSI tennis team. “The CSI team is really good,” she said. “It’s actually been a dream of mine to come to CSI.”

The students in the Verrazano School receive the extra benefit of smaller class sizes as well as priority registration. Another important fact about being a part of the Verrazano School is that the majority of the magna cum laude finalists who graduate from CSI every year are members of the School.

During the next four years, much will be expected of the students entering the Verrazano School this fall, and while every student is excited about the prospect of working closely with professors and engaging in research and internship opportunities, LaManna had one last piece of advice for the new cohort, “lift each other up.” If the team-building activities were any indication, this special group of students will have no problem doing just that.