Re-Imagining the First Year of College
Enhancing Student Success by Re-Imagining the First Year of College
The first year of college has emerged as the critical threshold for determining college success since it’s the point at which dropout rates are the highest, yet it is the most conducive year for reform given the academic concentration on general education. For this country to remain a vibrant economy and a robust democracy, students must not only have access to higher education, but they need to be able to successfully complete a college degree.
That’s why Governors State University is participating in the American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU) three-year “Re-Imagining the First Year of College” (RFY) project, a major initiative with the unique mission of broadly transforming the first year of college to increase students’ success throughout their undergraduate education and in the 21st century workplace. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds, this groundbreaking initiative represents an effort to substantively and sustainably alter the first-year student experience.
GSU President Elaine P. Maimon calls teaching and research in the first year of college a university’s “highest calling”.
“The first year of life, first grade, and the first year of college are three truly transformative years in human life,” said Maimon. “Governors State University is honored to be selected for participation in AASCU’s important project on reimagining the first college year. At GSU, only full-time faculty members teach first-year students. We believe that foundation-level courses are the most difficult to teach and the most important to student success. We have developed a model program that we are proud to disseminate. ”
The RFY initiative entails a comprehensive, “top-down, bottom-up” approach that engages the whole campus in focusing on four key areas to help first-year students succeed: institutional intentionality, curriculum redesign, changes in faculty and staff roles, and changes in student roles. Over the coming three years, we will be implementing evidence-based strategies addressing these four areas. We also will be participating in a “learning community” with the 43 other state colleges and universities selected for RFY, sharing ideas, successful strategies and lessons learned with each other.
Together, we have the capacity, the imagination, and the creativity to build immersive, engaging programs; we have technologies that can connect our students to worlds beyond their imagination; we have the power to change the first year; and we have the power to create a more powerful and successful educational experience for all.