One hundred freshmen living together in a Manhattan College dorm, a week of exploring in the city, and a yearlong learning-living community. This is the Manhattan College Arches program.
The program, which is now in its fourth year, has developed since its inception at the college. The Arches is a unique freshman experience that is designed to “assist first-year students with their academic and social transition to Manhattan College,” according to the MC website.
Current RA for the Arches and former Arches freshman resident Meghan Dinegar explained the specifics of the program.
“About 100 freshman live on the fifth and sixth floor of East Hill, and they take one Arches class together,” she said.
This class, Dinegar explained, is already a requirement so the students do not have scheduling issues. Arches students also partake in cultural outings and service activities through their Arches classes.
The freshman students that choose to apply and are accepted into the Arches program move into their residence hall, East Hill, one week earlier than the other students. They spend the next week participating in team building exercises and activities to familiarize themselves with campus, the city and each other.
While the program is a unique experience for a freshman resident, the exclusiveness of the Arches program does create certain misconceptions.
“I think last year there might have been a stigma surrounding it,” Dinegar said.
Dinegar suggested that this “stigma” might come from the concentrated group of freshmen that live in a building with floors that are otherwise mixed grade levels.
Former Arches resident and Quadrangle photographer Ashley Sanchez noticed some of the negative misconceptions of the Arches program as well.
“There are a lot of negative connotations that come along with the word ‘Arches’ but once you experience the family-like connection we shared, you’d learn to love the program,” she said.
Andrew Fontaine, another former Arches resident, has also heard many misunderstandings about the program.
“Many people think the Arches students don’t branch out, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Fontaine said. “People think that some of the arches kids can’t make friends outside the program but that isn’t true either.”
Former RA for the Arches program, Lindsey Pamlanye, agreed that it offered freshman residents a distinctive experience.
“They move in early which gives them a jumpstart to everything,” she said. “They get to know campus before everyone else, they get to know how to get around the city before everyone else, they get to know professors differently, because they get to meet them with students they already know and they get to know each other differently because they don’t do a twenty second icebreaker at the beginning of a meeting, they have a week-long icebreaker.”
Pamlanye also noted that non-Arches residents believe the program is closed off from the rest of campus.
“You hear, ‘they do everything together, they don’t know anyone outside of the Arches, they only do Arches things,’” Pamlayne said.
One thing that both Dinegar and Pamlanye noted was that these misconceptions are similar to the resident experience of the freshmen that choose Chrysostom Hall, and the Arches program had far more to offer than any perceived limitations.
Former Arches resident Hugh Geraghty shared a similar sentiment.
“When I worked [as an Orientation Leader] a lot of my kids asked me if it was a program for, and I quote, ‘Kids that couldn’t make friends on their own,’” he said.
“I think a lot of times new students may think that just because they are in the Arches program that means that they can’t talk to anyone else, but that’s simply not true. Being in the Arches Program is exactly like the freshman experience of Horan, Jasper, Chrysostom, or commuting, you will only get out of it what you put into it.”
Dinegar did recognize that there is a chance Arches residents would not branch out beyond their floor mates.
“As RAs we find that to be an important part of our job as well, to have them be really close with each other but to make sure they’re integrating themselves with the rest of campus,” she said.
Pamlanye suggests that the misconceptions surrounding the Arches will begin to fade once every grade level has an Arches group in it. As Pamlanye was in the first Arches group and is now a senior, her class will be the last class to which the program was ever new.
“I think the Arches will become normalized, once every single class has kids who can at least give a firsthand account of it, as opposed to someone saying ‘it sounds stupid’,” she said.
The Arches program offers a unique learning and living community for new freshmen. However, the program as it is described by the MC website is designed to deal with the social and academic transition to college. This creates the idea that Arches students are not as social as other students. However, these misconceptions seem to be falling away as the Arches program grows and thrives at MC.