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Of Note: Orientation Blog

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

Eric Ramsey, Associate Dean for Student Life

Welcome to Of Note. Here you'll find notes, advice and recommendations from Eric Ramsey, Associate Dean for Student Life. 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 Five | August 20, 2015

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, selected by Professor Thalia Wheatley — Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. We are looking forward to joining you, and Professor Wheatley, at your first Dartmouth lecture during Orientation.

For those heading to Dartmouth early — 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 inherent in joining the American higher education system, but Steve Silver, director of International Student Programs, and his team are putting together a great International Pre-Orientation program to ease your transition.

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


Post Four | August 7, 2015

Greetings good members of the Class of 2019!

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, 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 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

Post Three | July 29, 2015

Great news, incoming students! Your Shared Academic Experience is about to begin: we have mailed Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives by Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler.


The package also contains the following note:

July 21, 2015

Greetings incoming students!

This mailing contains your first academic assignment at Dartmouth College. Participating in programming associated with the enclosed reading and attending the Shared Academic Experience Lecture are essential components of New Student Orientation and you are expected to engage fully.

Dr. Thalia Wheatley, associate professor in Psychological and Brain Sciences, was selected by the Dean of the Faculty to facilitate the Class of 2019 Shared Academic Experience. Dr. Wheatley will be leading your class through this experience, so please be sure to look for information from her as we get closer to the program during Orientation.

Please join me in thanking Dr. Wheatley for her commitment to this intellectual exploration and the Sphinx Foundation for their financial support in making this mailing possible.

Best wishes,

Eric Ramsey
Associate Dean for Student Life and
Director of New Student Orientation

We will talk again soon, and continue to hope you are well!
Your friends at New Student Orientation

Post Two | July 22, 2015

Hello again, incoming class.

Greetings from Maine! I just spent a beautiful weekend here with lots of sunshine and time with family and friends. Being away from Dartmouth has been refreshing; it reminded me how busy life has been over the past few weeks. One of the most daunting tasks I recently faced was relocating my office. Though my new office is still in the same building — the Collis Center for Student Involvement — it nevertheless required going through so much “stuff.” It is amazing what one person can accumulate over eight years. Almost every item had a story or memory associated with it. In my reflection on how difficult it was to move offices, I realized many of you are starting to pack and sort your belongings to come to Dartmouth. After all, September is just around the corner. 

As we continue to eagerly prepare for your arrival, I know we have added to the amount of stuff you are sorting. I truly am amazed by the amount of information that you are receiving: survey requests, housing assignment, academic information such as EXPLORE, ENGAGE, EXCEL, and many other communications, both from Dartmouth's official channels and from your peers in places like the Class of 2019 Facebook group.

Part of your college transition involves learning how to look at all sorts of information and find your own way within it. When you arrive here you will find yourself in a whole new world, one where information will be coming at you from a variety of sources: faculty, academic departments and programs, student organizations, campus centers, your friends and family ... the list goes on. It may seem overwhelming, but I challenge you to see it as a path-finding and identity-building opportunity.

A large part of your identity will be in the classroom. Finding courses that interest you, collaborating with faculty and other students, exploring major (and maybe minor) areas of study, and everything that comes with academic discovery: these will be very formative over your time at Dartmouth. Beyond that, a great number of you will connect with communities in other areas: perhaps as a member of a pre-professional group like the Association of Women in Mathematics, a vocalist in an a cappella group like the Cords or the Rockapellas, a member of a special interest group like the Ecovores or Coffee Club, or even as a walk-on for a varsity sport like Rowing.

It is not lost on me that, before you came to Dartmouth, some of you were most likely involved in fifteen different organizations; you are all remarkable people, and capable of juggling high school classwork and extra-curricular activities successfully. However, I would like you to consider, as you make new academic and co-curricular choices here, that in college, depth is sometimes more important than breadth. Academics are a primary focus of your college experience, and I think you will find that becoming deeply involved inside and outside of the classroom will be both a challenge and an opportunity as you transition to Dartmouth.

The first few weeks of Fall term will be filled with chances to learn and find your way as part of our great College on the Hill. I'm willing to bet you'll find fifty different organizations, courses, and other things in which you would love to be involved. This is great, and I think it speaks to just how many amazing opportunities you'll have at Dartmouth. I encourage you, as part of your time management considerations, to think carefully about what matters to you and how you want to dedicate your time during your journey at Dartmouth. You are how you spend your time — make sure you spend it doing things that communicate who you are and where you want to go, as well as things that make you feel good about yourself and your community. Good luck continuing to sort through all the information we pass on to you, though I know that you all will do just fine.

We are as excited as you to see what your time at Dartmouth will bring and how you all will contribute to our community. Keep sending me your questions — I look forward to writing again soon.


Post One | July 14, 2015

Hello incoming students! Happy summer!

I’ll start by introducing 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.

Dartmouth has been hard at work for months already, preparing for your arrival this fall. Colleagues from all over campus have joined me in planning opportunities for you to experience the breadth of Dartmouth's offerings, always with the goal of ensuring your successful transition into our community. We are so excited about the programs and events we have developed for Orientation. 

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 courses will be your highest priority during Orientation. However, we are also committed to sharing with you very important information 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. Figuring out how to share this information 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 Dartmouth.

In support of that commitment to your successful transition, 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. It is important to me that you have a face you can link to the communication you receive. I look forward to playing a very helpful role 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 in the coming weeks. 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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Last Updated: 8/24/15