Highlander Day welcomes admitted CNAS students to campus

RIVERSIDE, CA - On Saturday, April 13, UC Riverside hosted the first of two spring open houses for admitted students and their families, giving future generations of UC Riverside students the chance to explore campus and learn more about the university's commitment to student success.

Highlander Day CNAS information session

Highlander Day brought 8,918 guests to campus, including 2,702 admitted students, who participated in campus tours and discovered academic, wellness and career resources designed to support them through graduation and their post-baccalaureate endeavors.

Among the many activities was the College Fair along Rivera Lawn featuring UC Riverside colleges, majors, departments and organizations. UC Riverside staff and faculty were on hand to greet guests, answer questions, pass out information, and introduce students to the various resources in place to support them throughout their college careers.

Highlander Day also featured an invitation-only Scholarship Celebration honoring UCR scholarship award winners and recognizing their academic achievement. 261 invited guests, including 81 scholarship winners, interacted with current students and faculty over breakfast and heard presentations from top administrators about the opportunities awaiting them at UC Riverside.

Also included in the Highlander Day festivities were programs sponsored by the College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences (CNAS) designed specifically for the future science majors who will call CNAS home. The programs offered insight into the current student experience, undergraduate research opportunities, getting to know faculty, and alumni support.

Connie Nugent, CNAS Divisional Dean of Student Affairs, kicked off the day with the first of three CNAS Information Sessions in University Lecture Hall. Dean Nugent discussed the history of CNAS, current research projects, and introduced CNAS Learning Communities to the audience.

A CNAS Learning Community (LC) is a year-long program designed to promote academic success, help new first-year students transition to college, and to give them the tools they need to thrive. The Learning Communities feature cohorts of like-minded individuals who develop friendships and use each other as resources and support systems. Learning Communities also help students develop a sense of community, belonging, and identify, and actively contribute to their persistence and success.

"When I go to other universities and I talk about these Learning Communities we have," says Isgouhi Kaloshian, CNAS Dean of Agricultural & Natural Sciences, "they are amazed that we put so much effort into providing these resources for our students...it's not a common practice."

Panels of current CNAS Science Ambassadors, current students who assist the school during official functions, were also on-hand at the information sessions to share their experiences and take questions from the audience.

Highlander Day college fair tabling

The Science Ambassadors also conducted CNAS tours for admitted families throughout the day, taking them through Geology, Physics and Spieth Hall while sharing their own experiences as CNAS undergraduates. The tours also made stops at Orbach Library, and gave admitted students the chance to ask questions about daily life at CNAS.

"The best thing about conducting CNAS tours for admitted students was that we got the chance to make a lasting impression on the students," said Jennalyn Resendez, a fourth-year Cellular, Molecular & Developmental Biology major and co-president of the Science Ambassadors. "We are often the first people prospective students really interact with at UC Riverside, and it is the most special thing when they thank us and let us know how much we truly impacted their decision to choose our college. It is such a great feeling, one-of-a-kind for sure!"

Admitted CNAS families were invited to attend a reception in the Student Success Center to mingle with CNAS faculty before the CNAS Meet the Faculty panel in the early afternoon. The panel, which featured Peter W. Atkinson, Interim Dean; Isgouhi Kaloshian, Divisional Dean of Agricultural & Natural Resources; Katherine Borkovich, Divisional Dean of Life Sciences; Morris Maduro, Chair of the Biology Department; Stefano Vidussi, Dean of Mathematics & Physical Sciences; Ted Karginov, Professor of Cell, Molecular & Developmental Biology; and Rick Redak, Chair of the Entomology Department, discussed how they approached their own college searches, offered tips for academic success and getting involved in undergraduate research, and answered questions from the audience.

"College is really about discovery, about having an open mind," said Professor Maduro. "You might think right now that you know where you're going to be in 10 years, but I assure you that most of you will be in completely different places that what you think in 10 years...completely different!"

Professor Maduro added, "If I had a time machine and could go back to talk to my younger self, and tell that person, 'You're going to be a biologist and you're going to live 2,000 miles away, and you're going to be a department chair,' [my younger self] would have thought that I was insane!"

According to Maduro, the college experience is about "following your interests and following your opportunities. Choosing your major is about what's important to you right now, but it's also about following your passion and what interests you."

"Focus on what you like, don't worry about specializing at a [bachelor's degree] level...you can change out of any of it at any time." added Professor Redak. "Focus on what you're interested in to keep your enthusiasm up."

When it comes to succeeding in class, attention and engagement are key, according to the faculty panelists. "The more engaged you are, the better you'll do," said Professor Karginov. "It's a basic truth that's hard to get around. Coming to class is probably the best thing you can do. Utilize office hours...if there's something that you don't understand, come to office hours with very specific questions. There's nothing wrong and everything right with coming to office hours."

Professor Borkovich added, "I welcome people to come who don't have specific questions, because usually there are other people there asking questions, so they can listen to the questions being asked by other students and realize, 'Oh, that's my question, too."

Professor Vidussi also reminded the audience of the importance of getting comfortable with failure. "College is a marathon, not a sprint," he said. "Failure will happen at some point, and you have to learn how to bounce back."

The day concluded with the CNAS Alumni Panel, moderated by Jeremy McWells, CNAS Associate Director of Development. The panel featured Nathaniel Co '22, a medical student at UC Riverside School of Medicine; Stephanie Dingwall '08 and '16, Associate Professor of Teaching in the Biochemistry Department; Lyan Li '22, an intern in an internal medicine clinic; Josh Tejada '23, a medical school applicant and member of the Mi Doctora Foundation; Ginny Winters '22, a Geochemistry Ph.D. student in the UC Riverside Earth & Planetary Sciences Department; and Charles Woods '21, a data scientist with the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Corona, CA. The panelists discussed their various experiences as CNAS students and talked about how UC Riverside prepared them for life after college.

"CNAS taught me how to learn how I learn the best and most efficiently," said Woods. "Some topics you'll learn quicker than others. Learn how to learn and best utilize your time efficiently, and learning how to lead others and committing to getting things done is also important."

"One thing that CNAS prepared me for is the ability to communicate and be confident in myself," added Winters. "When you're sitting down in groups and having a discourse back and forth...having that constant communication here at CNAS allowed me to be confident speaking to professionals."

As a Professor of Teaching at UC Riverside, Stephanie Dingwall is constantly thinking about how to prepare her students for life after graduation. "I really focus on critical thinking and critical analysis, because that's going to be so important in whatever field [they] choose," she said. "To be able to analyze something but also keep an open mind, cooperation and independence...that's what I see in a lot of my students: being able to work together, being able to think independently, and resilience. That's what I want students to get."

The second Highlander Day open house will take place on UC Riverside's campus on Saturday, May 4, 2024 from 10:00 AM - 3:00 PM. Prospective and admitted transfer students, admitted first-year students and their families are encouraged to register for the event online at highlanderday.ucr.edu.


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