|First Year Success formally established under co-directors Crownhart and Diaz Bonacquisti|
Sep 26, 2007
While more students transfer into Metro State than any other college in
the state, more students leave the college each year as well. In his
address at the Welcome Back Ceremony earlier this month, President
Jordan addressed the retention problem, citing the freshmen dropout
rate as 42 percent and challenging faculty and staff to reduce that
number by 10 percent in the next five years.
|(l to r) Judi Diaz Bonacquisti, associate vice president for Enrollment Services, and Skip Crownhart, director of the Advising Center, will co-direct the First Year Success program.
this challenge, Metro State is this semester implementing the First
Year Success program, designed to give students the resources they need
to remain in school and be successful. Started last fall as the
Transition Services pilot program, First Year Success is newly designed
this year as a joint effort of Student Services and Academic Affairs.
President for Student Services Kathy MacKay said: "A smooth transition
into the Metro State college community is essential for success, but
the entire first year is especially critical." Provost and Vice
President of Academic Affairs Linda Curran added, "In our discussions,
we (Academic Affairs and Student Services) agreed that we should
re-focus our efforts and resources on the First Year experience. Our
next goal is to redesign our sophomore year follow-up program and our
programs for transfer students.”
President Jordan has named
Skip Crownhart, director of the Advising Center, and Judi Diaz
Bonacquisti, associate vice president for Enrollment Services, as
co-directors of the program.
“While this initiative is being
implemented under Student Services and Academic Affairs—and it is an
important pairing—improving retention really has to become a
whole-college approach,” said Crownhart. Diaz Bonacquisti agreed,
adding: “We all—faculty and staff—need to realize the impact that our
relationships with students has on them and on their decision to remain
The importance of relationships
student relationships—with faculty, staff and other students—is at the
heart of the plan for First Year Success, which is focusing this
semester on a group of 260 provisionally admitted freshmen, grouped
together in the Reece Learning Community. The learning community is
named in honor of former Metro State Associate Dean of Student Life
Pauline Reece who passed away in 2001. The group is divided into 11
cohorts, each of which will take linked courses that provide additional
academic and social support. Cohorts of students take three classes
together, giving them a community of friends and study partners.
“If these students are together, they’ll form relationships; they’ll care about their friends’ success,” said Crownhart.
is especially important at a commuter college like ours,” added Diaz
Bonacquisti. “Our traditional-age students aren’t forming relationships
in dorms or through other activities that come from living on campus.
Their relationships come from their class time together. So, if they
see each other more frequently in the same classes, they are more
likely to take more of an interest in each other and in each other’s
While noting that they are still in process of
assessing and determining the best model for Metro State, Diaz
Bonacquisti, who also co-chairs the Hispanic Serving Institution Task
Force Committee, said, “The HSI Task Force is looking at other
institutions, particularly those with learning communities; we’re very
interested in seeing how learning communities work and how we might
apply some of the lessons from the successful ones here, given the
unique attributes of our student body.”
Crownhart said First
Year Success is working toward integrating the curriculum in these
linked classes, and providing training for faculty members who are
teaching these classes to integrate their curricula. “For example,”
Crownhart said, “a cohort taking an English composition class can apply
their writing skills to an essay for a linked history class.”
addition to their linked cohort classes, the students in the Reece
Learning Community are also taking a first-year seminar titled
“Freshman Success.” The seminar provides information on how to navigate
the College, where to get help, how to develop critical thinking and
writing skills, and other support services.
First Year Success
is also planning to conduct focus groups and surveys to get student
feedback throughout the year on the usefulness of the cohorts, the
freshman seminar and other support services.
college dropout rate is highest among freshmen, then sophomores. The
same is true at Metro State, which is why Crownhart and Diaz
Bonacquisti are focusing their initial efforts on incoming freshmen.
The long-term plan is to offer the learning community concept as an
option to all incoming freshmen at Metro State, and to further expand
learning communities to students from the freshmen through the senior
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