First Year Experience

Action Project

Institution: University of Wisconsin-Stout
Submitted: 2005-01-13

Planned project kickoff date:
Target completion date:
Actual completion date:
A. Give this Action Project a short title in 10 words or fewer:
First Year Experience
B. Describe this Action Project's goal in 100 words or fewer:
The goal of this project is to design and implement a comprehensive first year experience program and create a freshman learning community that is supported by faculty, student services and housing/residence life. This project will build on existing programs and services for new students and will include new initiatives to enrich the educational experience and to assist students in making a successful transition to UW-Stout.
C. Identify the single AQIP Category which the Action Project will most affect or impact:
Primary Category: Understanding Students' and Other Stakeholders' Needs
D. Describe briefly your institution's reasons for taking on this Action Project now -- why the project and its goals are high among your current priorities:
Over the past three years, UW-Stout has seen a decrease in freshman and transfer enrollments as well as a decline in first to second year retention rates. Freshmen are reporting low levels of engagement on the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and below average satisfaction ratings on other campus studies.  Current programming for new students has evolved over time; however, the institution currently lacks a unified first year experience. This project is part of UW-Stout's Focus 2010 initiative and compliments Title III activities.
E. List the organizational areas - -institutional departments, programs, divisions, or units -- most affected by or involved in this Action Project:
Housing and Residence Life
Student Services (Advisement, Counseling, Student Orientation)
Stout Student Association; Student Center (Involvement and Leadership), IRHA
Academic Colleges and Departments
Enrollment Services
F. Name and describe briefly the key organizational process(es) that you expect this Action Project to change or improve:
Residence hall assignments
Student Services (advising, counseling, orientation, tutoring)
Course scheduling and curricular design/redesign (linked courses)
Freshmen courses (early alert policy, attendance policy)
Student development (peer mentoring, student leadership)
G. Explain the rationale for the length of time planned for this Action Project (from kickoff to target completion):
This project is part of UW-Stout Focus 2010 initiative and will be monitored by the Chancellor's Advisory Council (CAC) and by the FYE Committee chairs. Individuals and units involved in this project will submit periodic progress reports that will be reviewed by the CAC every six months.  Information and progress on this initiative will be shared broadly with academic and administrative councils and faculty, staff and student governance groups.
H. Describe how you plan to monitor how successfully your efforts on this Action Project are progressing:
Increased contacts between new students and advisors, new students and instructors
Student success in seminars and linked courses
Participation by students, faculty and staff in related programs and activities
Progress on annual stretch target goals
I. Describe the overall "outcome" measures or indicators that will tell you whether this Action Project has been a success or failure in achieving its goals:
New student enrollment; New student retention
New student engagement; New student satisfaction
New student grade point averages
Achievement of annual stretch target goals
J. Other information (e.g., publicity, sponsor or champion, etc.):
Year One – 2004-2005

- Establish FYE Committee with cross campus representation and review research and best practices related to First Year Experience and Living Learning Communities in the literature and at other institutions.

- Develop basic infrastructure for program that will include:
  - Housing and residence life
  - Student involvement (mentoring, tutoring, study groups)
  - Student engagement and leadership (service learning, student organizations)
  - Faculty and staff involvement (integrate curriculum and learning community)
  - Student Services (academic and career counseling, advising, orientation)

- Share information and plans broadly with faculty, staff and students

- Initiate activities outlined in Title III proposal to increase student retention-Year Two – 2005-2006

- Students have been reassigned to new living environments in campus residence halls; all freshmen are housed together in the south end of campus

- Orientation for new freshmen will be extended, peer mentoring will be expanded and Academic Advisors will have part-time offices in the residence halls

- “Early alert” program for instructors will be expanded; attendance policy will be encouraged

- Programs that provide faculty with connections to residence hall floors will be piloted

- First-year seminars and linked courses will be developed

- Exploration of how community involvement and service learning can be integrated into FYE

- Continue activities outlined in the Title III proposal to increase student retention

Last Action Project Update: 2006-09-13
A. Describe the past year's accomplishments and the current status of this Action Project.
Major accomplishments of the First Year Experience (FYE) Initiatives include:

- The First Year Advising Program continued to be a highly successful initiative with over 90% of students indicating satisfaction with their advisor  

- Block scheduling was done for 1600 freshmen, registering students for appropriate general education and introductory program courses

- The Early Alert Program for identifying students academically at risk in their courses was instituted and endorsed by the Faculty Senate    

- Peer Mentors (26) were hired to assist advisors in the residence halls

- Career Clusters were developed for undecided students to assist them in identifying an area of interest

- Career exploration workshops were conducted for HS seniors and undecided first year students

- The Art Living/Learning Community pilot demonstrated higher retention rates and grade point averages for participating students

- Three additional Learning Communities were developed for fall 2006 implementation

- Seven faculty and staff participated in the Evergreen College Summer Learning Community Institute

- First year advisors had offices in the residence halls to promote increased interaction with students

- Parent contacts including mailings and meetings were initiated to assist their students with the transition to college

- The residence hall governance structure was reorganized to better accommodate first year students

- RA Dialogues, Advisor Follow-up and Roommate Conversations were implemented to assist students with transition

- Emerging Leaders Learning Models, a series of Power Point slide shows, were shared with 30 students identified by RAs as emerging leaders
B. Describe how the institution involved people in work on this Action Project.
Approximately 1600 first year students participated in new student block scheduling, a registration program, new student orientation, and advisement as a component of the First Year Advising model. Faculty and staff were involved in the early alert process, learning communities, the “Into the Book” reading program, and move-in day activities.   Departments with a high level of involvement include Student Services, Residence Life, Involvement and Leadership, Title III staff, Teaching and Learning Center, and various campus departments.  This FYE initiative is led by the Provost.
C. Describe your planned next steps for this Action Project.
The next steps for the Action Project include:
- Full implementation of the Learning Community Advisory Board
- Hiring of a FYE/Learning Community Coordinator
- Development of a proposal process for establishing Learning Communities
- Implementation of block scheduling software for first year students (both semesters)
- Improved planning for first year courses in English and Mathematics through ACT placement determination
- Increased participation in career exploration for undecided students
- Improved advisement using the Career Cluster model
- Marketing and publicity implementation for FYE and Learning Communities
- Increased offerings for Learning Communities for fall 2007
- Assessment of the FYE based on a number of metrics (satisfaction, retention, etc.)
D. Describe any "effective practice(s)" that resulted from your work on this Action Project.
The First Year Advisement Model has proven to be an effective practice as indicated by the 90% satisfaction rate obtained in the 05-06 First Year Advising Program Survey and the 84% satisfaction rate on the 05-06 NSSE. The Early Alert Program had good participation in its first year of implementation, and more data on this program will be available in the next annual update.
E. What challenges, if any, are you still facing in regards to this Action Project?
Challenges include creating opportunities for faculty involvement and integration of initiatives between Student Services and Residence Life. There is increasing interest in the development of learning communities however this requires a high degree of involvement and commitment from faculty and staff to develop linked courses and the allocation of resources for this purpose.
F. If you would like to discuss the possibility of AQIP providing you help to stimulate progress on this action project, explain your need(s) here and tell us who to contact and when?