FOCUS pre-orientation will partner with Tisch College, among other changes

The 2018 FOCUS coordinators (from left to right) Andres Almanza, Zoe Leaf, and Billy Lynn pose for a portrait in the campus center on Feb 2, 2018. Kirt Thorne / The Tufts Daily

Starting next year, incoming first-years participating in the First-Year Orientation CommUnity Service (FOCUS) pre-orientation program will sleep in Tufts’ residence halls, rather than in churches, as participants have done in past years, according to student coordinators Billy Lynn, Zoe Leaf and Andres Almanza, all sophomores. This arrangement is one of many recent changes that have been made to FOCUS; the program will also partner with the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life in an effort to expand civic opportunities available to participants, the coordinators said. 

The decision to have first-years sleep in residence halls rather than churches will allow coordinators to enrich other aspects of the program, Lynn said. In the past, coordinators spent much of their time driving to each of the various churches, some of which are as spread out in locations like Harvard Square and Medford Square, Leaf explained.

“We’ll be able to expand on a lot of different parts of the program now that there’s more time available for us to plan other logistics,” Lynn said.

Leaf, Lynn and Almanza mentioned that the changes in sleeping arrangements will ensure that the support staff, a group of rising sophomores in charge of helping with logistics and assisting FOCUS leaders, plays a more active role in helping FOCUS participants bond with one another. In the past, the job of the FOCUS support staff was more ambiguous, according to Lynn.

“There will be a lot more definition and clarity to that position,” Almanza said.

The three coordinators explained that FOCUS decided to partner with Tisch College to expand on its current community service mission.

FOCUS is service-based, and that’s first and foremost what the program is about, so partnering with Tisch College can open up so many doors and opportunities to hopefully grow on the different themes that we have,” Almanza said.

The partnership with Tisch College will also allow participants to have a vehicle for continued service on campus, Leaf, Lynn and Almanza emphasized.

FOCUS, as it has been, sort of ends when [pre-orientation] ends, but because we have Tisch College on campus doing service work throughout the year, FOCUSers will be able to continue service in a more cohesive way,” Leaf said.

Lynn added that FOCUS currently does not provide infrastructure for continued service after FOCUS.

Mindy Nierenberg, Senior Director of Tisch Programs at Tisch College, and Sherri Sklarwitz, Associate Director of Student Programs at Tisch College, have been meeting with FOCUS coordinators regularly to help ensure the success of the program, according to Leaf.

Plans to partner Tisch College with FOCUS began last semester, when the Office for Campus Life approached Tisch College staff to see if there was interest, Sklarwitz and Nierenberg told the Daily in an email. According to them, the decision was made official in the fall of 2017.

The two organizations decided to partner because of their similar goals to encourage civic action and community service, Nierenberg and Sklarwitz said.

FOCUS has shared aims with Tisch College, and we are excited to collaborate in a more holistic way to support the student coordinators, leaders, and participants in community engagement,” Nierenberg and Sklarwitz said.

Tisch College and FOCUS hope to make the first-years’ experience in FOCUS as meaningful as possible, according to Nierenberg, Sklarwitz and Lynn.

Tisch College staff envisions this partnership as a way to support the excellent work of the students who run, lead, and participate in the program,” Nierenberg and Sklarwitz said.

The fundamental goal of the FOCUS pre-orientation program however, has not changed, according to the three coordinators.

“The spirit of the program comes from participants, the staff members and the people who decide they want to apply,” Lynn said. “The spirit of the program will remain the same.”