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The Vassar First Year

As you begin your first year of college, please reflect on the values of the community you are about to join, as articulated in the Vassar catalogue:

“Vassar College seeks to sustain a community of special character in which people of divergent views and backgrounds come together to study and live in the proud tradition of a residential liberal arts college. Vassar students, working closely with the faculty, enjoy the freedom to explore their intellectual and artistic passions, to develop their powers of reason and imagination through the process of analysis and synthesis, to effectively express their unique points of view, to challenge and rethink their own and others’ assumptions, and to struggle with complex questions that sometimes reveal conflicting truths. The lifelong love of learning, increased knowledge of oneself and others, humane concern for society and the world, and commitment to an examined and evolving set of values established at Vassar prepares and compels our graduates to actively participate in the local, national, and global communities with a profound understanding of social and political contexts.

As Vassar seeks to educate the individual imagination to see into the lives of others, its academic mission cannot be separated from its identity as a residential community comprising diverse interests and perspectives. The college expects its students to be mindful of their responsibilities to one another and to engage actively in the creation of a community of intellectual freedom, mutually understood dignity, and civil discourse. The embodiment of this commitment is the book of matriculation, which all new students sign as they agree to uphold the letter and spirit of college regulations, to adhere to the values espoused in the college’s mission statement, and to preserve the integrity of the institution.”

Vassar has set lofty goals with the confidence that our students are both able and eager to embrace the challenge. Each student is given considerable responsibility to design and implement a course of study that aspires to fulfill the ideals espoused in the above statement. Vassar places considerable faith and control in the hands of its students, who are expected to find their own way of taking the liberal arts education offered at Vassar and making it inimitably their own.

Given Vassar’s rich and varied curriculum, your education depends on the care with which you plan your academic program. Your course selections should reflect your interests and abilities, but also acknowledge that your first year of study is a time for intellectual adventurousness. We hope that in planning your fall semester courses, especially in working with your pre-major advisor, you keep an open mind, remain flexible, and identify numerous and alternative course options that take advantage of the many possibilities Vassar offers you.

New Student Orientation

Classes begin this year on Monday, August 28. All new students are expected to arrive at Vassar on Monday, August 21, the first day of New Student Orientation. A detailed schedule for this year’s orientation activities will be given to you when you arrive and may be found online on the dean of first-year students website and at the new students website.

The activities planned for the days before classes begin serve a variety of needs, social as well as academic. Academic advising and registration for classes take place throughout the week. Orientation activities include general assemblies, residence hall meetings, and discussion groups designed to ease your transition to college life and to inform you of the rights and responsibilities that come with being a member of the Vassar community.

How to Use This Handbook

This handbook is designed to help you in your orientation to Vassar. Here you will find the academic information you will need in order to register for classes, including descriptions of Vassar’s requirements and statements by academic departments and programs that will aid you in choosing your classes. You should read through the Academic Information and Departments of Instruction and Multidisciplinary Programs sections of this handbook in order to familiarize yourself with the great range of choices before you. The section on Registration for Courses will give you more specific information about the process by which you will pre-register for three courses over the summer. Once you come to campus, you will have the opportunity to attend the many advising sessions that are a part of orientation, and you will meet twice with your faculty advisor during orientation to add to and revise your course selections. Final registration will take place on Friday, August 25.

Only one requirement must be met in your first year: every new student is required to complete at least one First-Year Writing Seminar. Please consult the First-Year Writing Seminars section of this handbook for the 2017/18 offerings. The Vassar catalogue, found online, is the primary source for all information on the academic organization of the college, its requirements for graduation, course offerings, and so forth. If questions arise as you read what follows, please also consult the online catalogue.

The next section of this handbook, Academic, Residential Life, and Extracurricular Resources, contains a listing of the people and offices you might turn to with any questions you may have. See, too, “A Note about Ask Banner” in the Registration for Courses section of this handbook for information about the online system. Additional information about student life at Vassar, including a list of student organizations sponsored by the Vassar Student Association, can be found in The Student Handbook. You will receive a hard copy of The Student Handbook upon arrival on campus, but you can consult the online version over the summer. You may always call the Office of the Dean of First-Year Students at 845-437-5258 with any questions as well.

And do remember to complete your Statement of Academic Interests online by July 21, which I will use to assign you a faculty pre-major advisor.

I look forward to meeting you on August 21.

Denise A. Walen
Dean of First-Year Students and Professor of Drama