North Park Voyage

North Park University's First-Year Experience

North Park University alumni often reflect fondly on their memories of living on campus, exploring the city of Chicago, and discovering their gifts and passions during college. But it all begins with what can feel like the “make or break” experience of freshman year. Transitioning from high school to a university setting (often moving far away from family), making new friends, tackling difficult college-level coursework — the list of new responsibilities is daunting.

This fall North Park unveils a new initiative to help the University’s new students start their college journey successfully. North Park Voyage is a program of first-year experiences designed to help students build a solid academic and community foundation that will sustain them successfully through college and into graduate school, the workforce, or whatever next steps they choose.

“For many years, North Park has run a very successful program that ushered our first-year students through the transition into college,” says Karl Clifton-Soderstrom, philosophy professor and co-leader of the Voyage committee. “First-year students could arrive early on campus and were greeted by an enthusiastic community of staff, faculty, and students. From help with registration to excursions into the city, the Threshold program did much to help students get their bearings on campus life. But what happens after that first week? How do we, as a campus, continue to guide new students through the myriad of decisions, questions, and challenges that they will face?”

Voyage is a year-long answer to such questions. The program consists of intentional opportunities for connecting with peers, faculty, and staff, as well as academic challenges, recreational activities, and ministry and service projects. New students are encouraged not only to take advantage of specific programs but also to seek out additional ways to meet people, explore their strengths, and develop their minds.

“The North Park Voyage is about integrative learning across the experiences, life skills, and academics that college demands of its students,” says Clifton-Soderstrom. “North Park is a school with a missional identity, and so a fundamental part of the North Park Voyage is to introduce students to our Christian, urban, and multicultural distinctives.”

Throughout the year, Voyage will be woven into the North Park Dialogue curriculum through lectures and workshops addressing these distinctives, practical skills for academic success, and personal enrichment topics like health and wellness or study-abroad opportunities. Each of these workshops is designed to provide students with “tools to help them be successful in the first year,” says Laurie Konecky, student activities coordinator in the Office of Student Enrichment Services and Support.

“Students and parents are looking for programs like this as they decide on colleges,” Konecky adds. “We are happy to have this new, full-campus approach to helping incoming students transition well and get the most out of their years at North Park.” Along with new offerings, students will participate in campus community traditions like the Student Diversity Leadership Conference in October, Bridge events throughout the year, and the Campus Theme lectures and essay contest. Celebrations like Homecoming and athletic events add some fun and recreation, and Voyage encourages students to get involved with other service and ministry opportunities coordinated through University Ministries and the Collaboratory for Urban and Intercultural Learning.

“Each of these opportunities provides a chance for us to help new students transition successfully to the North Park community,” Konecky says. “We are excited to intentionally bring together all these elements into the Voyage experience, to expose new students to who we really are, and to help them be successful in this learning community.”

Next Steps

Learn more about North Park Voyage

Return to the Summer 2011 North Parker online.