Program aims to acclimate seniors

By Amanda Thorogood

As seniors graduate and embark into the real world beyond Route 206, they may go left and they may go right, but do they ever stop to look back?

It may come as a surprise to some, but Rider and its resources are available long after graduation for former students to use at their convenience.

“Career Services is always open to Rider alumni, so that’s one of the great tools you can use if you are a young professional,” said Matt Semel, a communications major and senior class president. “Also, I think that this is where you got your education and it’s important to keep a connection to that because it becomes a part of who you are. I feel like there will be a link between how successful someone could be and how connected they were to their university.”

In conjunction with Alumni Relations, Semel, the senior class council and Westminster Choir College (WCC) senior class president Chris Sierra have created a new program to help alleviate some of the stress of being a senior and emphasize the importance of being an active alumnus.

The Senior Year Experience program is about structuring all of the resources Rider already has, whether it is Career Services or the different academic departments, to make them accessible to seniors all at once, Semel said.

“We’re looking to create the connection between seniors and the university so that when you are out, you won’t be afraid to turn back to the university; you won’t be afraid to come back and participate as alumni,” he said.

This is the first year that Rider has had the Senior Year Experience program. Both Semel and Karen Moran, the associate director of Alumni Relations, feel that the program has been what they had hoped it would be and urge more seniors to get involved.

“My only wish is that we can get more students to come out to events so that more people can benefit from these programs,” Semel said.

He also added that every senior who attends at least five Senior Year Experience events will be qualified to win a $500 Visa check card, which Semel suggested could be used “to buy a wardrobe for professional attire.”

Numerous events took place this fall, including a kick-off barbecue and a networking night; new events are already lined up for the spring semester.

“Before, we would just come to Senior Send-off and say ‘here’s everything that’s available,’” Moran said. “Now we wanted to start at the beginning of the year, invite you to the president’s house, introduce the program and then offer Career Services, grad school information and even Pub nights.”

Moran added that the spring’s events will not only be entertaining, but also very helpful in students’ future endeavors. The list of events include an opportunity for students to learn how to introduce themselves in any situation using their one-minute commercial, a Careers in Music Month at WCC and an etiquette dinner.

“You get to eat with alumni and you also get to learn how to interact in a food setting,” Moran said. “Food and drink provide a whole other aspect.”

Meet the Pros, another anticipated event for the spring, will be reminiscent of a speed dating process.

“You will do six [mock] interviews in an hour, where you will sit down at a station and someone will interview you for 10 minutes,” Semel said. “They would ask you some questions and write down some feedback and you would get that back.”

Not only are seniors given the opportunities to perfect interview and etiquette skills, but the Senior Year Experience has also been promoting the senior gift, an annual gift given to Rider by the senior class.

“It has a very strong tradition,” said Mary Mewherter, assistant director of Annual Giving who helps run the class pride gift program.

Past gifts have included gazebos around the lake, the Rider sign on I-95 and volleyball court updates.

Mewherter said that this year’s gift, voted upon earlier by the senior class, is renovations and updates to the kiosks and the student gathering areas in Memorial Hall.

“Our goal this year is to get 200 students to donate,” Mewherter said.

Donations come in the form of $20.09 and seniors also have the option of receiving a T-shirt with their donation as well.

“It’s extremely important to donate back to the university. It shows pride and commitment and it’s a thank you gift to say ‘I appreciate all that Rider has given me and all the opportunities that I’m about to have,’” Mewherter said. “And it is also to make sure that Rider, for future generations, becomes stronger.”

The Senior Year Experience is already planning for how future generations of seniors will uphold the program. According to Mewherter, they plan to invite juniors, especially junior leaders, to events and meetings beginning in the spring and then hold events towards the end of the semester for both juniors and seniors.

“We are always looking for ways to improve,” Semel said.

Students who wish to contribute ideas can leave comments on the Senior Year Experience Web site, which is currently a link at

“What specifically do you want to see and what skills do you want to learn before you come out of here that we can arrange to offer you?” asked Semel.

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