Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series about Metro State’s First Year Success Program. To read the first article, go to http://www.mscd.edu/~collcom/artman/publish/firstyear_twv6042909.shtml.
Metro State’s First Year Success (FYS) Program is truly a team effort.
The newly revamped program, which will serve 400 incoming freshmen this fall, represents a close partnership between the Student Services and Academic Affairs divisions of the College. Associate Vice President for Enrollment Services Judi Diaz Bonacquisti, the program’s interim co-director, is quick to stress the importance of the collaboration.
“We need the cross-collaborations from a lot of different departments,” says Diaz Bonacquisti. “[We need participation] from our faculty who are teaching in the program, from our admissions counselors as they’re going out and encouraging students to participate in the program, from our student academic success staff who are providing the support services for our students. We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got programming and support along the continuum. We couldn’t do it alone in Student Services and it wouldn’t be nearly as effective if it were only in Academic Affairs. We’ve got to have that cross-collaboration for it to be as strong as possible.”
Diaz Bonacquisti says that she and program co-director Skip Crownhart, director of academic advising, have met weekly for the past year with a variety of people in enrollment services to ensure that the program is able to take advantage of, and not duplicate, efforts in areas such as new student orientation, admissions, tutoring, advising and supplemental instruction.
“In these times of limited resources, we’re trying to capitalize on where we already have existing people with strengths,” says Diaz Bonacquisti. “…We’re capitalizing on the resources that we already have in place at the College.”
Bonacquisti also notes that the College is seeking to hire the permanent director for the program. The position of academic director for learning communities and FYS Program is currently listed on http://www.mscdjobs.com/ and will lead out of the Division of Academic Affairs.
Preparing faculty for success teaching first-year students is another important component of the program. Mark Potter, the director of the Center for Faculty Development, will help lead two faculty workshops this summer and serve as a facilitator for what he calls “a learning community on learning communities.” Potter also notes that all faculty who are scheduled to teach course sections as part of the FYS Program this fall will be receiving a book titled, “Teaching First-Year College Students.” The program’s faculty coordinator is Jacqueline McCleod, associate professor of African and African American studies and history.
Come one, come all
This fall, the FYS Program will be structured to accommodate 20 learning community cohorts, each with 20 students. Participants will be offered various co-requisite course options that meet the General Studies Level I degree requirements. An example is the pairing of an English composition course with one from history. In addition to these linked courses, which account for six credits, students will select other general studies courses to build out their schedules.
Cynthia Baron, FYS assistant director, says that the program is open to all traditional-age, first-time-to-college students and 2,500 recent high school graduates have received invitations to participate in the program. She adds that Metro State is collaborating with the Denver Scholarship Foundation to help recruit students for the FYS learning communities this fall.
As part of the inclusive approach, three of the cohorts will focus on serving exemplary students. Students with a CCHE index score of 105 or above who have expressed an interest in the College’s Honors Program will be part of a specialized honors cohort. Additionally, two cohorts will be frontloaded with students from Metro State’s PaceSetter Scholars program. In addition, students from the Metro Summer Scholars (formerly Metro Summer Bridge) program, who will be here this summer taking preparatory work, will transition into various sections of the learning communities this fall.
The FYS learning communities will benefit from a refined supplemental instruction (SI) model this fall. According to Learning Support Specialist Alison Amoe, who will serve as the certified supplemental instruction supervisor, the SI model attempts to prevent freshman students from “falling through the cracks” by teaming them up with a high-achieving student who already knows the Metro State ropes.
“I really think the supplemental instruction helps them to learn how to connect to different resources on campus,” says Amoe. “It also teaches students that it’s okay to approach their faculty members and teaches them appropriate ways to do that. In the long run, supplemental instruction facilitates students learning from other students. They learn that model of cooperative or collaborative learning. It’s an important tool that they can take and use throughout the college experience.”
Amoe says that supplemental instructors will undergo a day of training and must commit to working roughly 10 hours a week. Ideally, Amoe says, each cohort will have an SI who will attend one of his/her cohort’s linked courses to take notes and model appropriate learning strategies for the FYS students.
Additionally, the SI will facilitate as many as three 50-minute peer-review sessions per week that the FYS students can choose to attend. These sessions are designed to encourage involvement and comprehension of course material by the FYS students. The SI’s will also have weekly office hours where FYS students can drop-in with questions or concerns about their experience at Metro State.
Linda Curran, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, is excited about the supplemental instruction approach because it fosters meaningful, lasting relationships among a broad community of students.
“The faculty and the administration can do their pieces, but having students involved as supplemental instructors and as staff is absolutely key,” says Curran.
The FYS program has a number of other key services that it will provide students. Among these are: a special welcome program that will give students the opportunity to meet faculty members and other students in their cohort; an orientation session that will provide specialized advising for the linked learning-community courses; the assignment of an academic advisor through the Office of Academic Advising who will assist with course selection, major exploration and degree planning; a MetroConnect online group that students can use to stay abreast of program activities and updates; and a series of student-enrichment activities such as workshops and extracurricular programming.
With the goal of eventually serving every incoming freshman through the FYS Program, the College’s faculty and staff are looking forward to the completion of the Student Success Building, which according to President Stephen Jordan will house eight classrooms and all the student support services needed to operate the FYS Program from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on week days.
Vice President for Student Services Kathy MacKay is enthusiastic about the possibilities for providing students the individualized support and collaborative connections that will help them succeed. MacKay says she is also elated that, with the help of faculty, staff and students, the program has evolved to a level that is comprehensive and flexible enough to adapt to the changing needs of first year students.
“Programs like this work and make the difference to our students when we are all a part of the team,” says MacKay. “…This feels like a symbolic beginning to me. We are not using the word ‘pilot’ any longer.”
A First Year Success Web site is currently being developed.
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