From the Desk of Dean Waite

Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students

July Letter to New Students: Newfound Independence


July 1st, 2019

Dear Incoming First-Year Student:

As we approach Independence Day, I wanted to take a moment in this communication to address a topic that I know is on many of your mind’s—your pending New Found Independence. For many of you, this will be your first time living away from home for an extended period of time, and it is natural to worry not only about homesickness and adjusting to the social climate at college, but also about how to balance new freedom and responsibilities. To help navigate these concerns, here is the conversation topic guide we promised in our last communication:

Share Hopes and Expectations: We’d love for you to take ownership of your independence and create your own college experience. Remember—your family and friends will have their own hopes and fears about what you’ll do now that you’re on your own, so do spend time with them to share your goals and expectations. Trust me, it may be awkward and difficult, but it is worth doing. Here are seven suggested topics you could cover:

  • Staying in touch . . . discuss what mode and how often you will talk with those at home. J While it may be difficult, avoid calling home too frequently or as every small issue comes up, as this might increase feelings of homesickness. Claim your independence and work with your Chatham resources to solve problems on your own.
  • Enjoy the weekends at Chatham … Work to get outside your comfort zone and attend events, make new friends, invite friends to Chatham, cheer on the Cougar Athletic Teams #RollCougs, get to know Pittsburgh, immerse fully and take advantage of all that Chatham has to offer seven days a week.
  • Spiritual, worship or religious practices . . . Discuss plans with your friends and family. Touch base with Dr. Randi Congleton ( to learn about local faith network via the Chatham Multifaith Council.
  • Common Yet Potentially Harmful Human Activities . . . Having a serious conversation with your family can help reassure them about how you plan to approach cigarette smoking, alcohol, and other illegal substances now that you’re on your own. They may be able to help you understand the varying social and legal acceptability of substances and what to do if you’re in a situation where you encounter these things for (maybe) the first time.
  • Exploration (a beginning / continued) of Social and sexual activities . . . This may be the toughest conversation to have, and one of the most important. Be open to hearing about your families’ fundamental values and expressing yours, as well. For many, college can be the first time you interact with people who have different backgrounds, beliefs, and values. Spend some time talking through this possibility. It is also important—however uncomfortable—to address the real possibility that you may explore your sexuality in college. Discuss resources for practicing safe sex and your intentions to respect your own body and others.
  • Personal and Professional Exploration – Year 1, Day 1 – Chatham is committed to your success at Chatham and beyond. This journey begins the 1st year you’re at Chatham and, to be successful, you should proactive and take advantage of all the Career Development resources and services available to you.
  • If living with a roommate(s), be prepared to have a conversation about one another’s expectations, daily chores/upkeep of the space, quiet time, etc. Also, plan to get to know your roommates and other residents in your residence hall.

Chatham Supports You: We encourage you to connect with these campus resources (using that Newfound Independence J) to solve problems on your own, rather than asking your family to do this for you. Due to FERPA regulations, most offices on campus will only be able to give details to YOU, the student. Rest assured that Chatham has many resources in place to help you through this transition, including:

  • Student Success Coach Program & Strategies for Success in College (SDE101): The SDE101 curriculum covers many topics relating to your growth in independence, including navigating conflict, making healthy choices, and adjusting to the academic rigor of college. In addition, you will be paired with two Success Coaches—your SDE101 instructor and a Success Coach GA, who will meet with you routinely to discuss and work individually with many of these areas. Let your Success Coaches know how they can best help you and collaborate with them for a great first semester—and beyond.
  • The Office of Student Engagement: This office oversees all campus clubs and organizations to provide plenty of exciting, healthy ways for you to explore interests, make friends, and develop your resume. In addition, the office coordinates with the student-led Chatham Activities Board (CAB) to provide various programs and events on campus to give you plenty to do! Want to get involved in clubs or CAB? Reach out to to learn how.
  • The Office of Residence Life: Students living on campus have a support network attached to their on-campus living experience. Their Resident Assistant can help with housing questions, roommate conflicts, and be a peer advisor for other challenges your student may face during the transition to college. In addition, our Residence Life Staff and Graduate Resident Directors are always available for emergencies through the On-Call phone number and staffing system so your student has the support they need, no matter what time it is needed.
  • Commuter Student Services: Not living on campus? We have a variety of resources available to commuter students, including commuter-specific programming, a commuter fridge in the Carriage House, and commuter student lockers. Reach out to your Commuter Student liaison, Dr. Mary Utter, at for more information.
  • Counseling Services: Whether you’re making arrangements for continuity of care or simply needs someone to talk to during a particularly difficult time (roommate conflicts, homesickness, class stressors, social concerns), our Counseling Services can provide one-on-one care free of charge.
  • Career Development: Along with independence comes work and mapping out your career path. Career Development can help you find campus employment, create or revise your resume, get connected with valuable internships, and more!

On behalf of the Division of Student Affairs – Chatham University,

 Zauyah Waite, Ph.D.

Vice President for Student Affairs & Dean of Students

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