Starting my freshman year at UNH last August, I had two goals in mind: getting involved and meeting new people. I quickly realized how easy it is to make friends in your dorm—at the beginning of the year, every freshman has their hall door open in the hopes that one of their neighbors will stop by and introduce themselves. Meeting new people was very refreshing to me. Because I am from Durham, a lot of people from my hometown also attend UNH. Although I love being close to home and enjoy seeing familiar faces on campus, it was great meeting new people this year. I truly got the best of both worlds at UNH: I still had my old friends, and I was able to make new ones.
Once I got into the swing of starting classes and meeting new people, I decided to join a few clubs. I joined Women in Business, Friends of Jaclyn, and Project Sunshine. I really enjoyed being in each of these clubs this year and strongly recommend every freshman to try to join at least one club. It is awesome being a part of a group of people who share similar interests and passions.
Another big way I got involved was through the FIRE (First-Year Innovation and Research Experience) Program through the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics here at UNH. FIRE is a peer advising program, where first-year students are a part of a team of 20-25 students and are matched with an upperclassmen student. With the help of this peer mentor and an alumni advisor, students in FIRE learn important communication and professional development skills needed to succeed at UNH and post-grad. The first semester focused primarily on transitioning from high school to college, while the second semester focused more on career-building events such as a “Mocktail” networking event and a Career Fair Bootcamp. Additionally, each team developed a product related to a topic prevalent in today’s society. At the end of April, each team presented their product to a panel of judges at the Undergraduate Research Conference (URC).
One of the biggest components of FIRE this year, was the game aspect. The game encouraged students to get involved on campus. Students received points for participating in events on campus each week, and at the end of the year, the top three teams and top five individuals were recognized. Each member of the winning team and the top five individuals received an Academic Achievement Prize. Once all of the points were added up, the results were revealed in the beginning of May at the FIRE Awards Ceremony. Individually, I came in third place for points in the FIRE Program, and my team, The FIRE Fighters, pulled out the win to finish first overall! Hearing our team name called for first place was a very fulfilling moment for my team and myself. Throughout the entire year, I was committed to my goal of being involved. FIRE made that extremely easy, by providing weekly events I could attend. I would go to these events mainly with other FIRE students on my team, but sometimes I went with some of my friends from different schools at UNH as well. My team really came together the last month of school. We communicated more than we ever had, all with the goal of winning that prize. In this last month we all grew a lot closer together. We could not have done it without the support of our peer mentor, Samantha Raymond. Sam pushed us every week to try to participate as much as we could. We would not have won this if it wasn’t for her. You could tell she truly wanted us all to succeed and helped us immensely along the way.
Besides winning the game part of FIRE, I was also able to go on a trip to Washington, D.C. with other Paul first-year students, and meet with distinguished alumni in the area. Not only did I get to expand my professional network, but I was able to make connections with other Paul students who had similar academic goals as myself. This trip was definitely a highlight of my freshman year.
It’s hard to believe that my freshman year has come and gone in a blink of an eye. I wouldn’t change anything from my experience. I met so many great friends, and made great connections with my peers, Paul College faculty, and alumni. I took advantage of all of the amazing opportunities I was offered through FIRE and the Paul College, and I’m so happy I did! My advice to every freshman is to get involved and say yes to many (if not all) of the opportunities presented to you. These experiences just may end up having a big influence on your life.
About Caitlin Coxen:
Caitlin Coxen is a motivated first-year student in the Peter T. Paul College of Business and Economics at the University of New Hampshire. She is considering pursuing a major in Business Administration with an option in Marketing, and a minor in Hospitality. Caitlin graduated in the top 10% of her class at Oyster River High School located in her hometown of Durham, NH. In high school she was the treasurer of the National Honor Society, a member of the French National Honor Society, community service club, and Interact Club. Upon graduation she received the Red Sox Foundation Scholarship, Shirley Thompson Service Award, and John R. and Virginia R. Cooper Scholarship.
At UNH, Caitlin is very dedicated to her academics. She is a member of the Women in Business Club, Project Sunshine, and Friends of Jaclyn. In her first year, Caitlin received the Paul College Academic Excellence Award, the FIRE Luminary Award, and the FIRE Unsung Hero Award. She looks forward to continue being involved at UNH and at Paul College. She hopes to study abroad her junior year.