Patron saints and appreciation

In student affairs as in many professions, you have your ups and downs. Long hours, short budgets, and late nights are just par for the course. But then when least expected, an appreciation for your efforts appears from nowhere. And although things do not usually end well for patron saints, I love a challenge.
Thank you, Sebastian!

‘Twas the night before finals

Twas the night before finals, and all through the college,

The students were praying for last minute knowledge…

I passed a blurry eyed student as he was on his way to a final exam this week. He was gripping a Red Bull in each hand. And I was reminded of this final exam diagram shared by one of our peer mentors.

Happy Finals to All and all a Good Test!

Happy Anniversary eighteen and life

Happy Second Anniversary to the eighteen and life blog! Traditional anniversary gifts of china or cotton are now being accepted. Or not.

Thanks for your encouragement. And thanks for sticking around and reading.

A countdown of your top-5 favorite posts of the last year:

5. Gridiron Challenge and Support

4. Laws of Physics and College Transition

3. (Go to) Class Investment

2. Happy Anniversary #SACHAT

1. Digital Storytelling: Adventures in the First-Year Experience

Mission of First-Year Programs

First-year programming on most campuses originated from the topic of retention of students to the second year of college and persistence to graduation. Specific reasons are related to resources and the direct relationship between retention to enrollment and institutional income. With that in mind, most first-year program mission statements are framed around increasing academic performance and retention. Ball State, University of South Carolina, and Appalachian State are among those recognized as Institutions of Excellence in the First College Year. Their first-year program mission statements reflect this retention theme.

Ball State University’s Freshman Connections mission is to accelerate the process for new students to learn and succeed at Ball State. The program “seeks to deepen the contact new students have with faculty, staff, and fellow students in order to improve learning and persistence to graduation”. Fostering academic success, helping students to discover and connect with the university, and preparing student for responsible lives are the tenets of the University of South Carolina’s first-year learning outcomes. They fall under the overarching goal of helping new students make a successful transition, both academically and personally. Appalachian State’s Watauga Community is “structured to develop students’ expertise in the skills to evaluate and integrate relevant and quality information from different knowledge sources through individual and collaborative processes”. With focuses on connections and building community membership, each of these first-year mission goals strives to enhance retention and promote student success.

A History of First-Year Experience Programs

As the first-year college experience is a lot of the discussion here at eighteen and life, I thought you may appreciate a little historical reference.

College orientation, or programming focused on the student adjustment to the new academic environment, is recognized as the precursor to first-year experience programs. Early programs grouped students by housing and assigned advisers to guide new students in their education quest. Johns Hopkins University had formed a system of faculty advisors by 1877 and Harvard University had a board of freshman advisors on record in 1889 (Gordon, 1989). First-year seminar courses were later added to the early orientation structure to more fully develop the first-year experience. A first-year course initiated at Boston University in 1888 is recognized as one of the first organized orientation courses while the first orientation course for credit originated at Reed College in 1911 (Gordon, 1989). More than 82 first-year courses were available by 1925-26 with topics ranging from adjustment to college, study skills, current events, citizenship, and reflective thinking. A third of all colleges and universities offered these courses in the 1930’s and by 1948 a survey reported that 43% of institutions had required orientation courses in the curriculum (Gordon, 1989).

Faculty objections to course credit for non-academic orientation courses soon led to the downfall in their offering and fewer courses could be found on the college campuses of the middle to latter half of the 20th century. The political unrest of the 1960’s and early 1970’s resulting in campus demonstrations and protests led to an even wider divide between students and universities. The University of South Carolina is credited with acknowledging this rift and initiating a plan to link students with the university in the first-year. This led to resurgence in the popularity of the first-year seminar and other first-year student programming (Saunders and Romm, 2008). In addition to addressing the needs of new direct from high school students, first-year programs also attended to the “new college student” as students transitioned from individuals of financial means to more adult, first-generation, and less-academically prepared students. Higher education professionals again “sought ways of helping freshmen make the transition from high school or work to the college environment” (Gordon, 1989, p. 188).

Throughout the 1980’s, first-year experience courses and programs grew and evolved as institutions gave consideration to the transition experience of a growing diverse student population. Kuh, Kinzie, Schuh, Whitt & Associates (2005) reported that many of the DEEP (Documenting Effective Educational Practice) institutions are skilled at guiding transitions for student success in college and frequently require first-year experience courses or provide additional programs and activities that serve this function. First-year programs including summer orientation through seminar courses are now widely ingrained on the college and university campus and are promoted as important retention strategies common in the student transition to college.

Gordon, V. N. (1989). Origins and purposes of the freshman seminar. In M. L. Upcraft, J. N. Gardner, and Associates (Eds.), The freshman year experience: helping students survive and succeed in college. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J. Schuh, J. H., Whitt, E. J., & Associates (2005). Student success in college: creating conditions that matter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Saunders, D. F. & Romm, J. (2008). An historical perspective on first-year seminars. In B. F. Tobolowsky & Associates, 2006 National Survey of First-Year Seminar: Continuing innovations in the collegiate curriculum (Monograph No. 51, pp. 1-4). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

Second star to the right and straight on till morning

The flying public had a bit of a scare last week when it was discovered that a flight from San Diego to Minneapolis overflew it’s destination by 150 miles and was out of radio contact for 90 minutes. The pilots were apparently engrossed in a new scheduling software on their laptops. Their lapse in judgment cost them their pilot licenses and will likely result in the loss of their jobs.

At about the same time the media was publicizing the revocation of licenses, I was boarding a United Airlines jet in Denver, bound for a meeting in Los Angeles. Shortly after the cabin doors closed, the pilot, Captain Berner, could be seen making his way though the plane. Any frequent flier knows that this is a bit unusual directly before departing the gate.

Captain Berner stopped to chat with passengers every few rows discussing the turbulence we would likely encounter in route and our estimated flight time. He joked that we would make it to L.A. in two hours where as if we had decided to go by horseback, it would take us six months. After traveling through all the rows, he headed back to the cockpit to get us up in the air.

A quick survey of the passengers in my vicinity confirmed that none of us had ever had a pilot welcome after boarding any plane. So what was this? Likely, it was an United Airlines email memo to pilots on restoring trust with the flying public that had just been circulated. Cynicism aside, it had us smiling and perhaps just a bit more confident that we would arrive at our appropriate destination.

What have you done to reassure your students today?

All it takes is faith and trust and a little bit of pixie dust. ~Peter Pan

Eighteen and Life: NASPA Website to Watch

Celebrate good times! Tooting my horn that Eighteen and Life was featured among Websites to Watch in the Fall 2009 edition of Leadership Exchange, a NASPA publication. As the first anniversary of this blog approaches, it’s flattering to know that others find value here. I look forward to sharing more with you in the months to come. Thanks for reading!