This Year’s Freshman Forum


(Credit: Kristina Klauzinski ’24)

Kate Novack '24, Staff Writer

The traditional Freshman Forum looked a little different this year for the ninth grade class. Instead of going to Bryant University and touring the campus, we were in our all-too-familiar A&A talking with Mrs. Kris about stress tests of character, hearing from alumnae, making some art, and learning about the design thinking process from Professor Roberto virtually. 

Mrs. Kris is such an amazing teacher who is always able to make people smile. Mrs. Kris talked to us about how our brains like stories. She told us about stories that go from bad to good and stories that go from good to bad (redemptive stories). Her storytelling strengthened our connection to her. We also revisited some of our Habits of Mind knowledge and talked about our brain’s three reactions to stress: flight, fright, or freeze. She had us write for fifteen minutes about a moment in our life when we felt stressed, how we handled it, and how it changed us. This writing exercise really made me feel more confident in my abilities and she shared another inspiring story. On January 15, 2009, Sully Sullenberger had to make an airplane landing on the Hudson River because his engine failed. Mrs. Kris showed us Sully’s description of the accident and how Sully responded to the stress. He did not fly or freeze. He was calm, relaxed, and focused. This video made me think about how my brain responds to stress and how I can change my responses for the better. 

Following this inspiring talk, the freshman class was joined by the lovely Mrs. Marge. We created puzzle pieces that reflected the stressful moment we wrote about with Mrs. Kris. We could create whatever we wanted on this puzzle piece using the materials provided for us. Helen Olohan ‘24 said, “I liked the puzzle piece activity because it was really fun to see what girls were able to create.” There were no two puzzle pieces that were the same and I loved walking around and getting a glimpse of everyone’s imaginations. 

After our art activity, we were joined by three alumnae, Devyn Gianino ‘20, Maggie Gilbert ‘18, and Alexis Dimitriou ‘14. These three women discussed their experiences at Montrose, their experiences at college, and how Montrose prepared them for this new chapter. The panel really allowed us to start to think about college and realize how well Montrose is preparing us for that next step. Most of our class got to ask questions and I know that all of us loved to see these Montrose alumni back on campus.

Next, Professor Roberto (Parent of Celia Roberto ‘20) of Bryant University zoomed into the A&A and taught us about the Design Thinking process. We started with an activity that required us to build a tall tower using 18 spaghetti strips, one marshmallow, tape, and yarn in 18 minutes. I started to build my tower and I was having no luck. That was only five minutes in. Meanwhile, other girls are building formative structures that are about 19 inches taller than mine. I got so frustrated with myself and I had to start over again five different times. Each of the times probably took me two or three minutes. At the end of the 18 minutes, we gathered back and counted who had the tallest tower. The tallest one was thirty-two inches tall. When Professor Roberto shared that kindergarten students do better at this task than most business students do, I felt better that I was not the only one who was struggling. The building of our towers was followed by an explanation of the design thinking process and how it works. After we had learned more about it, we put it to good use and formed ideas. Our task was to better improve coffee shops after looking through a diary of photos of coffee shops that needed some care. Due to the pandemic, we could not go out to survey customers and baristas, but we did our best with what we had. We crafted our ideas based on these photos just like real companies would. We used sticky notes and blurted out all the ideas we could think of whether they were silly or serious. By the end we had several ideas, and we chose one. Like Pixar Studios, the class took their one idea and created a storyboard to represent it. This experience was very informative and I think that many of us will be using these steps in our daily lives. Even though Professor Roberto was not able to be there in person, he was still able to educate us about this process and for that we are very grateful.

Freshman Forum was such a fun time for all. Helen Olohan ‘24 said, “Freshman Forum was a wicked great way to close off the week before Thanksgiving break.” The Freshman Class learned many lessons in the habits of heart, mind, and character. I am so glad I got to be a part of it and I want to thank all who contributed! 

Kate Novack ’24