Re-imagining the First Year of College
FRESHMAN YEAR can be fraught with challenges like moving away from home for the first time, settling into residences halls, and learning to live with a roommate—not to mention juggling a full load of college courses. That stress can add up. Freshman year is also when universities lose the most students.
Can educators make that first year a more welcoming and inclusive experience? That’s what the 44 colleges involved in the Re-Imagining the First Year (RFY) program, including HSU, are hoping to find out. The effort is coordinated by the Association of American State Colleges and Universities and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds.
The three-year effort is aimed at helping colleges enhance the first-year experience in order to increase retention and improve graduation rates, particularly among historically underserved populations. A key component to the program is making sure universities are sharing with each other what works best.
“Through our association with the RFY, we will work to coalesce evidence-based activities and interventions into a package that will better serve all of our first-year students. This will enhance academic success by ensuring students are well prepared and motivated for their second year of college and that they remain on-track to graduate with their degree,” says HSU Provost Alex Enyedi.
HSU has already brought innovative changes to students’ first-year experiences with initiatives like the Retention through Academic Mentoring Program (RAMP) and the Klamath Connection. Both strive to deepen a student’s connection to the campus community.
RAMP utilizes peer-mentoring from upperclassmen to help freshmen adjust to college life. The Klamath Connection program brings a small group of freshmen from six of the largest HSU science majors together for an intensive introduction to science by focusing on the Klamath River. Over the academic year, the students take science and general education courses and participate in activities to understand the relationships between science, the natural environment, and local Native tribes.