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Haverford College

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Raisa Williams has a very important job here at Haverford. As Dean of First Year Students, she is responsible for overseeing the freshman experience of each incoming class, helping to make their transition to college as smooth as possible. Her position is multifaceted; she is involved with every aspect, from working closely with customs groups to handling the first year advisor system to the training of Upper Class Advisors and, not surprisingly, fielding the phone calls of nervous parents every now and then. Most importantly, once the year begins she is the primary resource for freshmen students. “My door is always open so they can just walk in.” she says. Whether it is about homesickness, extensions, or just a bad day, Williams always makes herself available to talk to the students. Not fond of staying in her office, she is known to have chats with students while walking on the nature trail or having coffee in the CPGC Café. These walks are very popular with the students as well. “I tell the students on the first night and some years they are waiting for me on Monday.” Meeting and connecting with the students is her favorite part of the job. She works to help the freshmen discover what it is that they want out of their Haverford experience and sets them on the track towards finding it.

When speaking about the Customs Program, she refers to it as a wonderful tradition that helps many freshmen feel quickly at home at Haverford. The transition from high school to college is an exciting time in a person’s life, but can also be confusing or even frightening. The Customs Program provides a welcoming environment that is designed to ease students into their college experience by surrounding them with a group of upperclassmen who have been there, done that and are eager to help orient them. Williams also points out that the transition is different for everyone, more difficult for some than others and acknowledges that each student adjusts in the way that suits him or her best.

Though each incoming class brings something new and different to Haverford, Williams has a wealth of advice which she offers every year. To begin with, “Know your limits and be moderate in all things whether it is in the classroom, on the baseball field or even socially.” College gives you four years in which to challenge yourself, but it is smart to get your feet firmly on the ground first. She also encourages freshmen to stay connected with home. “Whatever it is that got you here will help you succeed here,” she says. At college, you have the opportunity to learn new things and develop new interests, but it is important not to forget those things you were passionate about before. If you went to church at home, go to church here. If you played an instrument, join the orchestra. Finally, she stresses the importance of thinking beyond the classroom. “There is an incredible amount to experience while you are here, so much growth beyond the grey matter. You will learn so much more if you open yourself to it.” If you should need a reminder of this, Williams is just one cup of coffee away.

—Kira Loretto '09

Prof. Anita Isaacs (Political Science) and students cross Founders Green after class.

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