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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 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: 8/24/16