By Theodore Kortenhof
This year marks the third time students are participating in the CORE program, an orientation program for students new to Lawrence. The CORE program is two terms long, beginning fall term and ending winter term. Every week at CORE meetings, leaders initiate discussions related to the transition to Lawrence. The topics discussed are predetermined. This term, topics include campus engagement, identity, relationships and the residential campus. Along with creating discussions, the CORE program seeks to foster connections between new Lawrentians, introducing new students to the social side of college.
While CORE is a valuable opportunity for new students, I was underwhelmed by my CORE experience. This had nothing to do with my CORE leaders, and everything to do with my own level of participation. I regrettably did not throw myself into CORE. I dragged my feet and complained, putting up a futile, juvenile resistance to a program meant to help me. I was not active in CORE discussions, and did not try to involve myself in the group. Most notably, I stopped going to CORE entirely during my winter term. As such, I didn’t get much out of the program.
I bucked the CORE program because of an elevated sense of invulnerability, and a fair dose of hubris. While I was in CORE, I often felt that I didn’t need the program, that it was below me and thus couldn’t benefit me. This was shortsighted, and far from the truth. By skipping CORE, I missed out on a potential support net and a place to go with questions and concerns; a place where I could have grown through discussion prompts and self reflection. I missed this opportunity.
My experience was not unique. Last year, many people showed only a minimal level of participation in CORE. One of the major obstacles for the CORE program last year was the groups that fell apart due to low attendance. Many groups ceased to function when a critical mass of their members stopped attending. Once this happened, the remaining member’s experience was impaired. CORE groups with low attendance had trouble maintaining the level of discussion achieved by other groups due to their inadequate numbers.
Improvements can, and are, being made to try to increase CORE attendance. CORE leaders often try to bring food to incentivize attendance. However, an appeal to the stomach is not always a sufficient way to persuade students. More drastic measures should be applied.
The CORE program might have higher attendance if the syllabus were loosened. While it is important to discuss issues like identity, such discussions are not always fun, nor engaging. I enjoyed CORE meetings that rambled off topic, as I felt that they morphed from a pseudo-serious forum to a more lighthearted gathering of friends.
Discussing issues relevant to Lawrence life is an essential part of CORE and should be maintained. However, I think a less scheduled approach would be an improvement. If the schedule allowed leaders to substitute items of group interest, rather than prescribed topics, CORE would be much more engaging, and thus retain more people. Additionally, giving groups more autonomy in discussion selection would allow individual groups to tailor their discussions to their specific needs.
Allowing students to opt out after one term of CORE could also improve the program. This would allow students who were uninterested in CORE, like myself, to not take part after fall term. Only involving people enthusiastic about CORE would improve winter term attendance. While fewer people would be involved in CORE, its participants would have a higher quality experience.
CORE groups live and die by their attendance. Groups that have good attendance are successful, and their members gain much. Groups with lesser attendance sputter out, and their members gain nothing. What makes CORE successful is participation. While improvements can, and should be made to help boost attendance, the core of its success depends on CORE members. It seems obvious, but the fundamental step in improving attendance is attending. So I implore those involved in CORE to approach it with an open mind, and take part. CORE is meant to help students. If you don’t make the same mistake I did, you will get something out of the CORE program.