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New Student Orientation
Office of Student Life
6181 Collis Center
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH  03755
Phone: 603.646.3399

Of Note: Orientation Blog

Eric Ramsey, Senior Assistant Dean of the College and Director of the Collis Center

Eric Ramsey, Director of New Student Orientation

Welcome to Of Note. Here you'll find notes, advice and recommendations from Eric Ramsey, Director of New Student Orientation. We hope that you'll find these posts interesting, informative, and helpful as you prepare to arrive on campus in the fall.

As always, please reach out if you have any questions and check back regularly for more!

Post Seven | September 26, 2016

Thank you again, new students, for a great Orientation.

One highlight of the week for me was definitely the Twilight Ceremony on Sunday evening. Watching all of you carry a ceremonial flame to the Bema and listening to the meaningful speeches of upperclass students was, I think, a wonderful close to Orientation and a great set up for the first week of classes.

Now that you all have finished your first two weeks at Dartmouth, I invite you to take some time to read the remarks given at the Twilight Ceremony and think about what resonates with you the most. Please find the speeches below in their entirety.

Until next time,


 The annual twilight ceremony brought together the Class of 2020.

Nicholas Harrington ’17

Before I begin let us take a moment of silence to reflect and pay tribute to the lives lost on this day fifteen years ago.

Thank you.

Hello 20s! Welcome to the third annual twilight ceremony. My name is Nicholas Harrington; I am this year’s Student Assembly President. To get started, I would like to introduce Stephen Fraser ’20 and Sabyne Pierre ’20, who will present the Citizenship pledge to Vice-Provost Ameer.

Congratulations! You’re now done with what probably was a very strange but exciting week. Tomorrow, you are going to begin one of the must fulfilling and challenging endeavors of your life. For most of you, this is the first time you will be living on your own. This moment also provides you with the chance to think about your future and what you want it to hold.

This ceremony presents a moment to reflect on the past, and future of Dartmouth, to remember the 16s (and all other class years) who came before you. However, for the 20s, this ceremony marks the start of the beginning of your experience at this College.

Before you begin this journey, I am here to offer three quick pieces of advice:

1. Get out of your comfort zone.

This is one of the first times you will be asked to think about your whole life and what makes you happy. I encourage you all to not equate happiness to comfort. If you really want to succeed at Dartmouth, you must put yourself in awkward and challenging positions occasionally. Sure, if you stay in your comfort zone, you will continue to be the same, great person that you are today. But I do not believe that is enough. I believe you can do better than that. You must put yourself out on a limb, allow yourself to be wrong, and learn from those failures. You are going to be introduced to ideas, arguments, and experiences that you never encountered before. These experiences may sometimes challenge your worldview, and leave you feeling defensive, but it is imperative that you take those experiences and learn from them. You will succeed at Dartmouth if you listen and learn from those who take you out of your comfort zone. We are all here because we bring something of value to the community. Try to find that value in other people’s opinions and views.

2. Let Dartmouth be Your Home

You are now a member of the Dartmouth community, and I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity. Talk to as many upperclass students as possible about everything: classes, extracurriculars, sports, Greek life, study spots, good professors, etc. Older students have a tremendous amount of insight about Dartmouth. Do not be afraid to ask, or to introduce yourself. It is something I wish I had done more. Do not be afraid of professors. Go to office hours, even if you don’t have questions. Talking to professors has allowed me to have some of the most engaging learning experiences I’ve had at this school. These experiences came from discussing topics with my professors that had nothing to do with what was listed on the course syllabus.

3. Act as a support network for one another

Dartmouth will test you in every facet of your life. You will need to find a balance between your studying, activities, practices, and social life. This process can be incredibly straining, and you will hit low points. Put yourself in a position to help your friends succeed. You will have a more fulfilling four years if you invest in your friendships. Offer yourself as a resource to others. Do not underestimate or trivialize each other’s struggles. Many of you will become adept at hiding your struggles, whether they be academic, social, financial, personal, or otherwise. Break away from the useless stigma of hiding your struggles: it only causes more stress, and time lost spent thinking about them. Be willing to tell others when you are struggling to they can know they are not alone; this will help you realize you are never alone as well.

With that in mind, I congratulate you on all of your past accomplishments. You are here! I am excited to get to know each of you. Believe in yourself, and believe that you can accomplish anything here at Dartmouth. Success first requires a passion. Pursue your passions with all of your heart and mind.

And now, to commemorate the journey that has ended for one class, and is beginning for another, the 16s behind me will light their candles, and in turn, light yours. We do this as a symbol of continuity, and to acknowledge the contributions left by the graduates. As the 16s light your candles, they pass off their Dartmouth to you in the hopes that you will build on their accomplishments and effort.

We will now take these candles, and proceed to follow the members of the Class of 2016 behind me on to the Bema, where we will continue the ceremony. Thank you.

Led by members of the Class of 2016, the Class of 2020 crosses the Green for the twilight ceremony.

Iman Hammad ’17

Good Evening. My name is Iman Hammad. I am a '17 from Wisconsin, and I am a Student Director at the Tucker Center, Dartmouth’s Center for Spirituality and Ethical Living. I am so excited to welcome you, the class of 2020 to this place of opportunity and discovery.  We can’t wait to get to know you.

Every single one of you belongs here, and all of you will find your place on this campus - just give it time. Keep in mind that there is no “typical” Dartmouth student-there’s only you. Unique you. Capable you. Amazing you. Your Dartmouth experience, like life, is a “choose-your-own-adventure”. It’s up to you which page you’ll turn to next, which door you decide to open. We will all celebrate wins here, and we will all face challenges here.

Regardless, you will find your place. That sense of belonging will not come immediately.  A warm and supportive community is built piece by piece: a smile, a wave, a helping hand that’s there when you need it. Community is co-created. Community is built by extending an open hand, it is grown by each of your contributions – be it heart, soul or intellect – and sustained through love and support. A community that thrives is a community that survives, that unites during difficult times and that proudly celebrates all its unique narratives.

Creating community takes more than just an open mind; most importantly, it takes an open heart.  Muhammad, peace be upon him, once said ““Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.”

With all the opportunities that Dartmouth provides it’s easy to get lost in the “Dartmouth Bubble”.  Instead, let’s get lost somewhere else, in service, in kindness, and in helping others.  Let’s take all that Dartmouth offers, and use it to make a difference to those next to you, and to the broader community.

Last year, I had an amazing opportunity through the Tucker Center to be a part of its Immersion Spring Break focused on Faith, Race, and Justice, three things that often cause division due to their differences. I was able to be part of a diverse group of students – Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist. Together in Washington, DC, we relied on one another’s diversities, through our strengths, to delve deeply into these divisive issues, skipping sleep to have discussions 3, 4, 5 hours long. We celebrated our differences while serving the underserved in DC.  Did we make a difference in their lives? Perhaps a little. The trip certainly made a difference in mine, showing me that in the future, I want to be an advocate for those without a voice. A quote by Kahlil Gibran, I think, sums up what I learned quite well: “I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.”We should remember that service to one another, both our peers and strangers alike, is what binds us together. It is what builds community, belonging, and ultimately, joy. 

Community comes together to support you during difficult times, and celebrates with you during victories. Tragedies happen on larger scales, as today we remember the 15th anniversary of 9/11, and on smaller scales.  Community is what helps us endure tragedies such as these, and helps us realize our full potential, of being supportive, kind, loving, smart, empathetic people.

The world around us can oftentimes be dark, filled with hate and war, ignorance and misunderstanding. Take the resources available at Dartmouth and help lift up those who need it, on our campus, in our cities and states, and across our world.  At Dartmouth, we have resources that few in the world have. From engaging in local policy decisions through the Rockefeller Center to discovering new cancer treatments at DHMC, opportunity to make substantial change is at your fingertips. You just have to reach out and take it. The next four years are a limited window of opportunity for you to take advantage of all that Dartmouth has to offer.

T.S. Eliot once wrote, “For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning." Today, we thank the Class of 2016 for their words that are passed on to us in their legacy, as they head off on new adventures that await them beyond Dartmouth.  ’20s, yours are the new voices that will begin to fill the empty spaces the ’16s left behind: in lecture halls and in the library, on the Green and beyond.  We welcome you, with open arms and open hearts, eager to experience how you will reshape life within our Dartmouth Community.

And now, we’ll listen to the Rockapellas sing “Dartmouth Undying.”

--- Singing of "Dartmouth Undying" by the Rockapellas ---

And now, let’s have a moment of silence, to envision who you are, who you hope to be, and what community looks like and means to you.  I hope that vision comes to fruition over your time here. Once I say thank you, please blow out your flames, and together we’ll sing the Dartmouth “Alma Mater.”

--- Singing of the “Alma Mater” by the Rockapellas ---

Photos by Joshua Renaud ’17


Post Six August 30, 2016

From the Orientation TeamThings You Might Have Forgotten To Pack

Hello ‘20s, transfer students, and exchange students! We are the Orientation Team, and we are working hard to support all of you throughout Pre-Orientation and Orientation. Eric asked us if there's anything we wanted to say to you, and we wanted to share the following thoughts with you! We hope that you are excited about your arrival to Hanover— just like we are at the Collis Center.

With all of the energy surrounding moving here, meeting people, and starting a new chapter, there are a few things that you may not have checked off your packing list yet. That's where we, your friendly O-Team, come in! We put together a list of things that we think are important to a successful first year in college, and that are often forgotten at home. In no particular order, here is the list: 

Something that reminds you of home
For those of you who are not from Hanover (and many of you aren't), being at Dartmouth may mean leaving things that you are already comfortable and familiar with. Wherever you call home, bring some of that with you — a picture, a map, a jar of sand, whatever — for the days when you miss the things you left behind. Remembering where you come from is important to establishing your roots at a new place.

A positive attitude
College is hard. If someone told you otherwise, tsk tsk. Let us correct that now: there will be times when you will struggle. Whether they are educational, personal, or social, challenges will surely arise during your time here. Being able to keep a positive mindset about the situation at hand will help you out in the long run even if things do not get immediately better. Positivity is necessary in keeping afloat and seeking the necessary resources to make things work.

Willingness to try new things
College is about trying new things and learning about yourself: simply by coming to college in Hanover, New Hampshire, many of you have demonstrated some willingness to try new things. Try to continue exploring new things while you're at Dartmouth. It's often when you leave your comfort zone that you learn the most  both about yourself and others (trite, we know, but true). Challenge yourself to do an extracurricular you never would have done in high school, take that class outside of your field, jump at the opportunity to meet new people. Don't let that comfort zone hold you back. You might be scared about what could happen, but it's even scarier to think of what you could miss.

Comfort with failure
Failing is never an enjoyable experience: no one likes failing at something they set out to do! However, it's an inevitable part of life, like homework or catching a cold (which, while hard to believe, are things that every Dartmouth student has gone through). What's more important is how you react to that bad grade or that rejection letter. Bring with you the ability to confront failure, learn from it, and keep moving forward. All failure becomes a success the moment that you make something productive out of it. As Dory would say, "Just keep swimming." 

A flexible plan
There are a lot of options for what you can do at Dartmouth – what you study, where you study, when you study — and that's just the academic aspect of your time. With that in mind, if you have already decided what you want to do with your time at Dartmouth, great! However, we encourage you to leave a bit of wiggle room as plans change quite often in college. Whether all your decisions are deliberate or if you like to go with the flow, you have the power to make your time at Dartmouth whatever you choose for it to be.

Something that makes you happy
Not every day at Dartmouth is perfect. There may be times (especially during reading period) that you may want to just curl up in your bed and watch a movie, have a bite of your mom's homemade chocolate chip cookies, or just sit and do nothing. It's completely natural to feel this way and very handy to have something or someone on hand to boost your spirits and keep you going. Whether this is a movie, a playlist, a book, a relationship with a person, or an activity — do it for your own benefit. Put something in your room or have someone on speed dial that never fails to make you feel better.

Awareness of your surroundings
To many of you, Dartmouth is going to be a whole new world, with lots of people to meet and so many areas to explore. Be cognizant of the spaces that you occupy and who you're occupying them with, wherever you go. Know that your experiences are entirely your own and completely valid — as are the experiences of those who surround you — to the extent that everyone has something worthwhile to share. Being mindful of how others feel and function will make your interactions with others more genuine and fruitful in the end. Expand your mind and be open to other perspectives and diverse experiences unlike your own.

Be curious! Ask questions! Think about why or how something may be the way it is or work the way it does. Immerse yourself in new ideas so you can form a richer understanding of the world around you. Don't fall into the trap of settling with "the comfortable.” Have conversations where you deconstruct your norms and hear the perspectives of those in this community. Ask questions about things you want to know without fearing judgment, because your thirst for knowledge is only going to be quenched if you actively allow it to be.

A calendar
Often times at Dartmouth, it seems as though there are 101 things to do in a given week. You have classes, meetings to attend, performances to watch, dinners to be eaten, and the list just goes on and on! It's so important to learn how to manage those precious hours in a day so that you accomplish what you want without feeling like you haven't slept in years. Plan out not only time to accomplish your goals, but also time to relax, be with friends, and really enjoy this amazing place. 

Your birthday suit
Being comfortable in your own skin is integral to navigating college. Learning to go to bed content with who you are and waking up feeling great about your choices will make your time at Dartmouth feel meaningful and worthwhile. Not only will you be able to present yourself with more confidence, you will  actually be more confident. Be yourself and do not let anyone else tell you who you are or aren't. As the idiom goes, march to the beat of your own drum. You do you. Always. 

We can’t wait to see you when you arrive – until then, you can start following our exploits on Instagram: dartmouth_oteam


Post Five | August 24, 2016

Hello everyone.

This time — mid to late August — is an interesting time for you all. Many colleges and universities on the semester system begin their fall terms earlier than Dartmouth. Some of your friends (or family) may have already left for college, while others may be leaving this week or next. I don't mean for you to panic when you think about this, or to feel sad when you think about the summer coming to an end. Rather, I hope you see this as an opportunity, much like how I encouraged you to view sorting through all the information we've sent you in the weeks leading up to Orientation. See this not only as the end of an era, but also as the beginning of a new chapter.

I know this can be a weird time and thinking about how to wrap up the final summer before your college career may seem like an impossible task. I challenge you to use this time for all the things you said you'd do and haven't done, both for yourself and for those around you. Plan a meal with your family, and one with your friends. Invite everyone you've been promising to make time for and make an evening experience out of it. Grab your siblings, your cousins, your closest friends or your favorite aunts and have a Netflix marathon, or visit a local spot that is important to you. Look back at that summer bucket list you made all those months ago and start checking things off. Grab your parents and Prancercise (I joke, I joke).

I do ask, though, that you balance your bucket list with your college checklist. Go through the Orientation website and double check your deadlines. Read through the Local Placement Exam pages — it's important that you carefully consider the available exams and plan to take any that you feel would be helpful in determining your courses. Re-reading Explore, Engage, Excel in conjunction with placement information will be a great step in preparing for course election during Orientation.

Be sure to read the Shared Academic Experience book, Americanah, selected by Professor Sienna Craig, and interact with the Canvas site she has created. We are looking forward to joining you — and Professor Craig — at your first Dartmouth lecture during Orientation. 

For those heading to Dartmouth early or who have already arrived — whether it's for Pre-Orientation, a DOC First-Year Trip, or something else — we'll be ready for you! And to our international students: we know there are challenges to joining the American higher education system, but Danielle Hussey, Advisor to International Students, and her team are putting together a great International Pre-Orientation program to ease your transition.

Regardless of when you're joining us: enjoy your final days at home, say goodbye (for now) to your loved ones, and get ready for the start of your Dartmouth adventure.



Post Four | August 10, 2016

Greetings good members of the Class of 2020!

On behalf of the over five hundred professors, lecturers, instructors, and adjunct faculty, I want to extend my warmest welcome. We are excited to join you in your scholarly journey that starts in September.  My name is John Pfister and I have had the pleasure of teaching at Dartmouth College for over twenty-five years. Dean Ramsey has asked me to write a few words about our academic life together at the College. 

I could offer tips about studying for my statistics exams, or perhaps the tools I use in grading essays in my first-year seminar on critical thinking in Psychology. As we approach the first day of classes together, however, I cannot help but highlight an idea that transcends any calculation you could perform or any sentence you could write: both professors and students will return, time and time again, to the Academic Honor Principle.  Every syllabus and many first lectures will mention something about the mutual expectations that will guide your pursuit of knowledge.  Instead of offering the mere advice of “Don’t cheat!” I wanted to offer a faculty perspective on the consequences of treating these expectations lightly.

I still love reading the Academic Honor Principle aloud with students. ( When you take a minute and do the same you will notice many things about students “accepting responsibility,” or faculty providing “continuing guidance.”  You will also see a resolution of the ultimate trust between faculty and student with the discontinuation of proctoring during exams.  My favorite thing, though, is the preamble to the four resolutions, which reminds us that both faculty and students embraced these ideals together.  The Honor Principle is not just mine to uphold or yours to follow – it is ours to live by.

At multiple points throughout the term, many of you will feel the pressure of getting everything done on time and to perfection.  It has been my experience that this is the time when it becomes all too easy to let your zeal and/or fatigue get the best of you, and try to cut corners.  All of us want to do our best work, so here are some ways to integrate the Academic Honor Principle into your daily – and scholarly – life:

1.  TALK TO YOUR PROFESSOR:  Really – when in doubt; when you just don't know whether or not to cite a reference or collaborate with another student; when you stayed up too late to think straight – wait until morning and write your professor.  Yes, you might get a late penalty, but isn't your integrity worth more?

2.  PLAN AHEAD:  The best moment to budget your time is the first day of class. Prepare a plan of attack for the term and for every assignment.  Take ten minutes each week and create a study schedule.  Find a friend to do this with you – support each other and keep each other company.  Include a couple of early morning trips to Lou's for crullers or walks around Occom Pond as an incentive.  Even better, studies indicate that regular sleep is the key to better academic performance: a good schedule allows for just that.

3.  TRUST YOUR JUDGMENT:  If the voice in your head tells you that you might be in a gray zone, listen to it.  Don't submit an uncited draft when you really meant to send a final version.  If a group project seems a little too collaborative, say something.  Moreover, think about the trip home after the term is over – wouldn't you want to leave with a clean conscience?

4.  MAKE THE HONOR PRINCIPLE COME ALIVE:  It is so tempting to avoid talking about something with such strong implications for one’s integrity and academic career.  The truth is, though, that by making your thoughts public, you will hear different views, understand different perspectives, and give meaning to the words in a syllabus or lecture.  Moreover, somewhere in those lunch discussions or queries during office hours, you or one of your friends might hear something that makes all the difference in the world.  I’ll even help start your conversation; you can write me ( or we can grab coffee or a meal when you arrive on campus.

One of the most difficult things I have ever had to do is to tell a student that I thought they had violated the Academic Honor Principle.  I dread the discussion, and always have trouble sorting through the complex mixture of anger, violation, sympathy, distrust, and shame.  Then again, this shouldn't be easy.  Accusing someone of breaking the Honor Principle is a serious matter and calls into question everything we hold dear about sharing knowledge with one another.  But in the end, I like to think that we are not only building a culture of scholarship and social awareness, but a culture of integrity.  Wouldn't it be amazing if Dartmouth was known as the school where academic integrity mattered as much as the number of students we sent to medical school or the number of Ivy League championships we won?

During your first term at Dartmouth, remind yourself of who you are and what brought you here. What made you exceptional is what brought you to Dartmouth in the first place; trust it to be the thing that allows you to excel here.

With great respect and in tremendous anticipation of your arrival,

John Pfister
Senior Lecturer, Psychological and Brain Sciences
Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Advising

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Post Three | August 8, 2016

Hello! I hope you are enjoying your summer. I can’t believe how quickly time is passing — and I am sure you are feeling the same way!

I wanted to make sure you were aware of a few “new” things that are either on our website or recently arrived in your email inbox:

  1. Local Placement Exam schedule and information;
  2. Invitation to “Video Chats” with the Undergraduate Deans, in support of your curricular exploration and in preparation for course election; and
  3. Shared Academic Experience “assignment” on Canvas, and the opportunity to reflect on AMERICANA and begin a dialogue with Professor Craig.

Please make sure to balance your “academic prep” time with rest and relaxation, and take advantage of these last few weeks of summer to energize yourself! Thanks, and we will talk again soon.


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Post Two | July 14, 2016 

Welcome to summer! 

Dartmouth is hard at work preparing for your arrival this fall, and we are so excited about the things we have lined up for you. Colleagues and I across campus are planning opportunities for you to experience the breadth of Dartmouth's offerings, always with the goal of ensuring your successful transition into the Dartmouth community.

Our journey together will begin in earnest when you get here. As that day approaches, we are spending a great deal of time thinking about you: where you come from, your unique and diverse backgrounds, and the amazing perspectives you'll bring with you to Dartmouth. Learning about academics at Dartmouth and electing Fall Term classes will be your highest priority during Orientation. However, we are also thinking a lot about what we want to share with you about living here — not only all the amazing aspects of our College on the Hill, but also all the things you need to know to fully participate in our community and feel at home at Dartmouth. This is no easy task, and none of us takes this responsibility lightly. We all care very deeply about you and will work tirelessly to ensure that you have every opportunity to shine in your time at the College.

With that commitment to your successful transition in mind, I will be writing to you in the weeks leading up to Orientation. Be sure to bookmark this page because every week I will post little pieces of advice or recommendations that resonate with me personally. Sometimes the posting will be something that is on my mind; other times it may be an update on Orientation. Mostly, I want to put a face to the communication you receive and help guide you in your introduction to Dartmouth.

To help me formulate my blog, I want to extend an invitation to you: ENGAGE. Let me know what you're thinking and feeling. Share your hopes and dreams, and your fears and questions — especially your questions. You may find that your questions shape a future posting.

Watch for more communication from me next week. In the meantime please reach out to me with anything that might be on your mind. My personal email address is I can't wait to hear from you, and I will see you soon.


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Post One | May 11, 2016

Hello incoming students!

Let me first introduce myself: I'm Eric Ramsey, and while I wear a few different hats at Dartmouth, right now you'll know me as the Director of New Student Orientation.

Your official Dartmouth “new student” communication has begun! I hope you have claimed your account and started working on the Pre-Matriculation Instructions and Checklist via BannerStudent. 

Here in Student Life, we are about to go silent for a few weeks. We’ll be as busy as you: while you are finishing your academic year, we are graduating Dartmouth’s great Class of 2016 – and then we will all catch our breath!

We’ll talk to you again in July. Until then, we wish you the best possible conclusion to your secondary school careers and some well-deserved rest and celebration.


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Last Updated: 9/26/16