By Steven Krolak
Beginning this week, IU Southeast will begin participating in a new initiative designed to change the first-year experience in ways that will help students connect with campus, stay in school and persist in their studies though graduation.
“Re-Imagining the First Year of College” or RFY is a project of the Washington, D.C.-based American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) that aims to transform the first year of college in order to increase student success throughout their entire undergraduate education and beyond, in the 21st century workplace. IU Southeast is one of only 44 universities and colleges chosen to take part.
“I am pleased that IU Southeast is included in this national effort to enhance the first-year college experience,” said IU Southeast Chancellor Dr. Ray Wallace.
The RFY initiative is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds, and will last three years. It officially kicks off on Thurs., Feb. 2 at the AASCU Academic Affairs Winter Meeting in Austin, Texas. A delegation of leadership from IU Southeast will attend.
According to the AASCU, students are more likely to drop out during their first year than at any other point in their college life, making the first year both a critical marker for overall college success and a prime juncture for intervention.
Given the impact of a college degree on success in career and life, it is vital not only for colleges but for society as a whole, including employers and government, to invest effort in addressing first-year challenges and designing effective strategies that reshape this phase of a student’s journey with an eye to positive academic and professional outcomes.
The RFY initiative seeks to focus 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 next three years, IU Southeast will be part of a learning community including 43 other state colleges and universities selected to share ideas, successful strategies and lessons learned with colleagues. From this broad range of expertise, varied evidence-based strategies will emerge for addressing the needs of first-year students. As part of this learning community, IU Southeast has a unique opportunity to gain insight into successful practices by attending conferences and webinars, receiving one-to-one mentoring, accessing online tools and resources, and making use of other activities.
“Our participation is more evidence that we’re acting upon the mandate to serve the regional community, re-imagining the first-year experience in ways that will allow more of the students who matriculate with IU Southeast to persist to graduation and move into post-graduate life, work and citizenship,” said Dr. Angela Salas, interim associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and honors program director at IU Southeast.
The relationship is a boost not only for students, but for the entire IU Southeast service area, according to Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Dr. Uric Dufrene.
“College attainment is a key to workforce and economic development, so the progress made also immensely benefits the region,” Dufrene said.
The AASCU is a higher education association of more than 400 public colleges, universities, and systems whose members share a learning- and teaching-centered culture, a historic commitment to underserved student populations, and a dedication to research and creativity that advances their regions’ economic progress and cultural development.
Homepage photo: First-year student Kylene Baker is welcomed to IU Southeast by faculty and staff on Induction Day.