This archived article was written by: Daniel Pike
Freshman year in college can be daunting; with new faces, new places and an immense course-load, some students can feel overwhelmed and unsure of their own academic success.
This is why USU Eastern’s new Academic Success Initiative is implementing a first-year experience that provides a path for all incoming freshmen to a successful transition into their first semester and throughout freshman year.
One aspect of this plan is a revamped orientation process. Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management, Greg Dart said, “We’ll be reimagining what orientation should be. We’ve been looking at the best orientation practices from around the state and how we can implement those here.”
USUE currently offers an optional orientation course; yet Kay McClenney, Ph.D. and director of the center for community college student engagement writes, “Students don’t do optional.” Since many other colleges in Utah have mandatory orientation processes, USUE will follow suit by 2016.
Dart says that another important part of this initiative is a renewed commitment to college-success-skills programs. “A student who takes a college-success-skills course in their first semester is nearly 10 percent more likely to be retained for a second year.”
Since college success starts with getting students here and follows with keeping them here until graduation, Dart understands the need to keep up USUE’s already outstanding fall-to-spring retention rates. He said, “In looking at USU Eastern’s enrollment goals, we’ve had a very large push for recruitment and retention. We do a very good job—one of the best in the state—in fall-to-spring retention.”
Increased focus on a new mentoring program is also high on the list of priorities for Dart and the new director of first-year experience, Shanny Wilson.
Dart added, “Her goal, in that new role, is simply to help students; to give them the clearest path to success in their first year.”
The new mentoring program is largely Wilson’s undertaking and, according to Dart, will be largely responsible for guiding student on their path to obtaining a degree. “The new mentoring program is aimed at getting every incoming freshman an academic advisor. That mentor will be there to help guide them in choosing a major, to what their course-load will look like, to being somebody that the student can just reach out to.”
Dart concluded, “We want to know what we can do to help take a student from their first fall semester, to their second fall semester, and finally to graduation.” With Dart and Wilson at the helm, all incoming freshmen can feel confident that their academic success is of the utmost importance to USUE and its staff. He said students should feel comfortable transitioning to a new school and should never be afraid to be vocal about their wants and needs.