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FAC: A Warm Welcome to Duke

I t's move-in day, and as hundreds of new students pour onto East Campus, they bring with them boxes, computers, refrigerators and a wide variety of other articles. How can the University turn this convergence of people and belongings into a fairly organized process?

Many agree that it simply cannot be accomplished without the help of those colorful T-shirt-clad members of the First-Year Advisory Counselor, or FACs.

"Because of my FAC last year, I had a pleasurable experience on move-in day, and I knew that this year I wanted to give some overwhelmed freshman that same good experience," sophomore Tom Roller said. "I almost feel like it's a duty that upperclassmen have."

Most FACs expressed the same motivation behind their decision to join the program: They all had great FACs their freshman year. This gave them a positive impression and sparked their desire to join the organization. A common phrase among most FACs was the word "fun", but like most organizations on campus, FACs explained that there are positive and negative aspects to participating in the program, and the process is not all fun.

"It was great to walk up and see enthusiastic faces ready to move in and eager to experience everything," said FAC Maurice Loebl, a sophomore. "On the other hand, it felt like first year move-in day all over again, and I hated that feeling."

Others agreed that they really did not enjoy carrying so many heavy boxes up multiple flights of stairs in the heat. Besides moving in their own first year students, FACs were required to help others move-in throughout the day. In addition, many FACs would then have to move in themselves.

"The worst part about being a FAC is having to help all of the new students move in and then turn around and move all of your own boxes in. Also, I have to say that it seems like we're moving in more stuff this year than we brought last year," said FAC Matt Signer, a sophomore.

At the same time, this manual labor seemed to be what the freshman most appreciated about their FACs. "It's nice when she comes to visit, but the best part was seeing that there were people to help carry all of the stuff when we pulled up," freshman Roddy Knight said.

The exact role that a FAC plays in the life of a new student varies from group to group, but leaders of the organization stressed that during training the FACs were given specific guidelines as to their duties.

"We make sure the FACs understand that their groups will be made up of different personalities and that they should work to understand group dynamics," said junior Cris Rivera, who took part in training new FACs at the beginning of the school year and serves as a FAC himself. "We also tell them to be ready for any problems that might arise and make sure they know freshmen may come to them for advice." Rivera added that in annual training, FACs are reminded not to "hook up" with their first year students nor are they allowed to provide them with alcohol.

But for the most part, FACs are one of the few constants during the first hectic weeks away from home.

"My FAC made me feel like I had something to do all the time. We went out for dinner, he comes to visit and hang out, he calls us, and suggests things to do. It really helps," freshman Christine Alvarez said.

The program is all about turning those frightening first days into a time for meeting veteran faces and getting settled in before the weight of classes takes hold.

This help during move-in week appears to be the most important time for FACs to make their presence known, but freshmen will soon realize that their counselors remain in touch with them for the entire year.

Head FAC Annie Gray, a junior, said, "We like to stress that this is a year-long commitment, and that is a very important part of the program."

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