The First Year Experience


The College's goals related to undergraduate education include:

  • Enhancing the quality of our programs
  • Attracting high quality students to our college
  • Improving the retention of our students
  • Creating a sense of college identity and pride for our students (as well as faculty and alumni).
  • Providing a modern liberal arts education that prepares students to be global contributors.
  • Foster a life-long love of learning and intellectual curiosity in our students.

In pursuit of these goals the college is greatly expanding its First Year Experience (FYE) Program. It is essential to focus on the freshmen since they are particularly vulnerable to dropping out of college. They are frustrated with their college experience for a number of reasons. Many are undecided regarding their choice of major. They spend much of their crucial first months of college in larger enrollment introductory or survey courses. They fail to connect with the college's faculty, students, or mission. Finally, they do not know how to approach studying and scholarship at a university-level. A&S's revised FYE program will address these issues through five major components:

  • Arts & Sciences Freshmen Seminars
  • Learning Communities
  • Discovering Arts and Sciences
  • College Success Course
  • Advising and Orientation Activities

Discussions regarding the creation of a program that is responsive to the specific needs and interests of A&S's faculty and students have taken place this year in A&S Heads Council, UG Council, and the First Year Experience Committee.

Arts & Sciences Freshmen Seminars

These 3-credit hour interactive, small-enrollment courses are designed to engage students immediately in the intellectual life of the college. They allow our freshmen the opportunity for in-depth, multi-faceted exploration of significant issues in today's world. Designed to help liberal arts students understand and engage in the process of knowledge discovery, seminars help new college students become successful university-level scholars.

Characteristics of these seminars include:

  • Small enrollments (max 30)
  • Highly qualified faculty: tenure track, emeriti, or other appropriate instructors.
  • Interactive teaching strategies
  • Often employ a multi-disciplinary approach
  • Partially fulfill a students' general education (Critical Thinking,Knowledge Integration, Social Responsibility) and A&S Distribution requirements
  • Address issues of fundamental importance in today's world (ethical, cultural, ideological, etc.)
  • Strive to teach students how to approach scholarly activity at a college level.
  • No prerequisites are required.

Freshmen Seminars were piloted during the 02/03 academic year.

Faculty members are encouraged to propose freshmen seminars they wish to offer during the academic year.

Call for Faculty Proposals

Faculty members are encouraged to submit course proposals to Paula Breslin (556-0798). Proposal shall include a brief description of the course, its learning goals, likely instructor, pedagogical methods, special requirements, and when the course will be offered. Paula will work with faculty to get these courses through the approval process and scheduled.

Learning Communities

A learning community (LC) is a pedagogical style and course structure created by enrolling a small group of students into a cluster of two or more linked courses. The curriculum in these linked courses is designed to integrate student learning and to develop intellectually and socially productive relationships with other students and faculty.

A full-time Director, Pam Person, was hired in January 2002 to provide University-wide direction for LCs and her office is now available to provide College of Arts and Sciences with significant logistical support to coordinate, grow, and assess LCs. This development provides A&S with an opportunity to integrate the successful components of the prior programs -the original Mic and Mac, the English Composition anchor, and the current passive-structure LCs - into a new approach that emphasizes LC's academic integrity and fosters an intellectually and socially engaged student culture within A&S.

The new program will create linkages through one of three mechanisms:

  • Content links
  • Pedagogy links
  • Special interest links

Discovering Arts & Sciences

This 3-credit hour course is designed to demonstrate the benefits of a liberal arts education. Discovering Arts and Sciences explores many of the disciplines of the College of Arts and Sciences through original and innovative faculty and alumni presentations. Students have the opportunity to explore their own interests and talents and to 'try-on' different majors through a variety of interactive surveys and activities. This course is designed for students that have not yet declared a major and for those who are considering a change in major. This course provides free elective credit for students.

College Success Course

This course focuses on the first year student's academic and social integration into the university environment. Curriculum includes student and research skills, time management and the importance of making connections and utilizing campus resources. Just one more way to make sure the student gets off to a great start in Arts and Sciences!

Orientation Activities and Advising

Orientation Activities:

Student orientation has been revised to include a more interactive presentation strategy designed to create a positive atmosphere for our incoming students that focuses on what they want most - information necessary to register for classes. With the new system students walk away from orientation equipped with that which is essential for a successful first semester of college: a positive attitude and a viable schedule.

The week prior to the beginning of fall semester classes, the college encourages all incoming freshmen to participate in Welcome Week activities. Sessions included during this program include rules, guidelines, procedures, but in an interactive non-threatening yet thorough manner. For example with regard to academic integrity, students are advised of University rules and regulations. Then, working in groups, students are provided with examples of student work that they must assess with regard to issues of plagiarism.

Student/faculty focus groups are another important component of welcome week. Here faculty member volunteers meet with small groups of students to share ideas about the differences between high school and college and to talk about faculty expectations of students, and student expectations of faculty. This provides new students with their first faculty connection and helps to "humanize" the faculty to new college students.


Understanding the need for students to have a personal contact with someone in the Advising Center, students are sent (both by email and traditional mail) a note indicating their advisor's name, phone number and email address prior the beginning of autumn semester classes. This connection is solidified by fairly regular communications from their respective advisors, notifying them of important dates and deadlines, as well as reminding them to set up an appointment for priority registration for the next semester.

To further personalize the registration process, and as a means to maintain contact with their students, advisors offer a number of 'group advising sessions' during the semester. Often organized by major, these groups provide the framework to ensure that students register for appropriate courses and that their advisors monitored their academic progress. This option for group advising allows the office to effectively deal with over 1200 true freshmen students while proving an opportunity for socialization within the college. Attendance of an individual or group advising session is mandatory for all first year students. Students are prevented from registering for the following semester until they meet with an advisor. As a result of this effort, advisors met with over 90 percent of all first-year students before the end of autumn semester. During previous years the rate of contact had been closer to 25 percent.

In an effort to encourage faculty/student connections, advisors instruct all students to get to know a faculty member each semester. Advisors then quiz students on their progress on this assignment. For example advisors ask students to tell them what they have learned about a professor: hobbies, children, research interests, pets, etc.

At the end of autumn semester, students are sent one of three letters based on their academic performance:

  • Students earning less than a 2.0 GPA are sent either an email or snail mail directing them to sign up online for a mandatory Study Skills Workshop, which is offered in January. Blocking registration until the workshop is completed enforces attendance. These sessions focus on time management techniques, study habits, and give students the opportunity to talk about their academic concerns. Approximately 95 percent of the required students attend one of these sessions or make alternative arrangements prior to the beginning of spring semester
  • Students earning a 3.0 and greater are sent congratulatory letters acknowledging their fine academic performance during autumn semester, sharing information about college scholarship opportunities, and encouraging them to "keep up the good work".
  • All other students are sent letters encouraging them to attend the Study Skills Workshop, and to meet with their academic advisor throughout winter semester.

Spring semester advising focuses on students who have not yet declared a major, or on those who are in "pre" programs. These students are at a higher risk of leaving school. During spring semester all 'pre' students in the college must attend an advising session in which their progress towards their degree goal is reviewed and where appropriate alternative options are explored. Many of these students are enrolled 'Discovering Arts and Sciences'.