In his yearly induction of the new Denison class, President Adam Weinberg always urges students to connect with their fellow peers, by talking to people completely different from oneself. However, as a first-year student, this task can seem rather daunting. Reaching out to people you don’t know can be quite scary and uncomfortable, but the benefits of following such advice are only positive. Building connections is what makes the Denison experience so valuable, and the university’s First Year Office is making sure that its first-year students make the most of their beginning year at Denison.
According to Peer Mentoring Coordinator and ‘21Connect Program Coordinator, Moriah Ellenbogen, “‘21Connect is a program run by the First Year Office that offers first-year students various opportunities to explore Columbus throughout the school year.” Ellenbogen explains that the program was first developed in the Fall of 2017, when it was then called 2020Connect. Dean of First-Year Students, Mark Moller, had wanted to offer such programming for quite some time and was finally able to set the project in motion last year.
Ellenbogen works to plan trips that not only appeal to a majority of students, but also give students the chance to explore some widely known and popular Columbus destinations. This year, ’21Connect offered trips to IKEA, the Columbus Italian Festival, COSI, the Columbus Museum of Art, the Chinese Lantern Festival, a Columbus Blue Jackets game, Franklin Park Conservatory, a Columbus Crew game, the Zoo, and the Short North.
“We also partnered with the University Programming Council back in February to plan a trip to Mad River Ski Resort for snow tubing” says Ellenbogen. While ‘21Connect may not be a completely unique program to the Denison community, what does make the program unique is the fact that all of these trips are offered for free. Students not only receive free transportation to and from the events, they are able to participate free of cost as well.
Ellenbogen believes that the goal of the ‘21Connect Program is comprised of two parts. “First off, a piece of President Weinberg’s strategic plan has been closing the gap between Granville and Columbus, and truly taking advantage of our close proximity to such a thriving, vibrant city,” she says.
Ellenbogen herself was a Denison student and during her four years, and only managed to make it down to Columbus once. Since her own graduation in 2014, she moved to the city and says she regrets not taking advantage of all that Columbus had to offer sooner. Ellenbogen hopes that this program familiarizes students with Columbus, and maybe even motivates them to keep exploring on their own time.
She adds that the program “offers a venue for first-year students to connect with one another, especially on the weekend, when some first-year students may feel homesick or lonely. My hope is that the program has fostered some new friendships.”
“A piece of President Weinberg’s strategic plan has been closing the gap between Granville and Columbus, and truly taking advantage of our close proximity to such a thriving, vibrant city”
Ellenbogen said that program attendance has varied per trip, but the most popular activity among students has been the trip to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. Adelaida Montero ‘21 speaks highly of her experience with the program, saying, “I love the ‘21Connect Program! I always looked forward to being able to go on these free trips with peers because it allowed for me to get off campus and experience Columbus and other parts of Ohio.”
“I loved every single trip I went on, especially to the Columbus Zoo, the North Market, an art museum, etc. Not having a car can make it difficult getting off campus and exploring new things, but because these trips always provided a ride to and from the places we visited, this made the trips that much more worth it.” She also added, “I got to meet new people and see new things and spend quality time with friends away from campus.”
Montero’s sentiments are echoed among other attendees, and many speak about the benefits the program has had in allowing them to get off of campus and to meet new people.
Jose Brito ‘21 says, “I really enjoyed the experiences I obtained by going on the trips to the various locations near our campus. The ‘21Connect trips provided me with an incentive to leave campus and explore cool places like the zoo or the art museum.”
Another student who attended the trips, Dana Randall ‘21, speaks positively of her experience with the program as well, saying, “My favorite ‘21Connect trip was to the Columbus Museum of Art… I had been wanting to visit the CMA but hadn’t gotten the chance, so I was quick to sign up when I saw that the university was planning a trip there. I got to meet other first-year students who I [continue to] keep in touch with and explore the art scene in Columbus without the trouble of finding a way to get there.”
Incoming first-year students can check out the ‘22Connect Facebook page to find out more about the program and the trips offered and should keep an eye out for emails throughout the year from the First-Year Office announcing the trips for each semester.
Spots are first-come, first-served and students simply have to reserve their spot for any of the provided events by emailing Ellenbogen at firstname.lastname@example.org.