Sam Abrahams, ’14, found inspiration in his first semester at the University of Richmond. The connections he made through Roadmap, a pre-orientation program, opened doors to a job in the Technology Learning Center and a lead role in the theatre department’s production of the musical “Rent.”

In the days leading up to new student orientation, Abrahams took a short course called Writing the Unwritten: Finding Your Voice in Literature and Art, with Della Fenster, professor of mathematics. In the course, incoming first-year students explore poetry, literature and what Fenster calls “some of the hidden treasures on campus.”

“The class is about looking around you and finding inspiration — something that moves you,” says Abrahams.

Fenster gives all of her students a Moleskine journal for reflective writing inside and outside the class. Abrahams still carries his journal everywhere. “It’s nice to have a little notebook to write down good ideas when they come to you,” he says. “I usually keep it with me, and I write songs and good lyrics that come to mind and little things that I see on campus.”

During Roadmap, Fenster introduced Abrahams to Dorothy Holland, associate professor of theatre. “Dr. Holland could tell from my voice that I am a singer,” says Abrahams. “She told me about ‘Rent’ and said that I should try out for it.”

Abrahams, who had not been in a musical since eighth grade, says he decided, “It was now or never.” He ended up landing a lead role, playing Mark Cohen, the narrator. “Rent” was performed at the Modlin Center for the Arts in late November.

Abrahams applied for his current on-campus job as an instructional technology assistant after another introduction through Fenster — this time to Hil Scott, media production coordinator in Information Services.

Fenster, who has participated in Roadmap for the past three years, explains that the program gives her a chance to connect with new students beyond academic advising. It gives her the opportunity, she says, “to get to know my students better and know what they are interested in so I can send them announcements and resources.”

But to her, the most exciting aspect of Roadmap is that “students begin to build a sense of community on campus even before the school year has started.”

As for Abrahams, he says that not only did he get to feel comfortable on campus before regular orientation and participate in a thought-provoking short course, he also met many of his best friends at Richmond. “It is similar to orientation, but smaller, so you get to know people sooner and more intimately,” he says. “The people I met in Roadmap are still some of my closest friends on campus.”