Cuyahoga Community College
's stated mission is to provide an affordable, high-quality learning experience for its diverse enrollment. Considering the amount of freshmen arriving on its doorstep each year, Tri-C has created an initiative to guide incoming students past the higher education threshold as painlessly as possible.
First Year Experience
(FYE) is a multi-faceted, comprehensive introduction to Tri-C, says Dr. Michael Schoop, president of the school's Metropolitan Campus. The "campus support system" for new students folds the college's ordinary orientation procedures into a systematic, larger-scale effort meant to focus freshmen on long-term career and academic goals.
"Tri-C has long been interested in anything that can help more of our students become successful," says Schoop. "With so many of them new to the college experience, we needed a more structured approach."
Start 'em up
FYE, a mandatory piece of Tri-C's orientation program, features a series of activities created to meet each individual student's needs:
- Convocation is a formal introduction to the campus community, where newbies learn about campus life and are connected with the various resources they will utilize throughout their college career.
- First-Year Success Seminar connects students to additional campus and faculty resources while supplying advice on time management, study skills development and financial literacy. During this course, participants are encouraged to map out an academic plan that articulates their goals from freshman year through graduation.
- Depending on placement scores in subjects including math and English, some freshmen might be shifted to Fast Forward, a foundational learning program that precedes higher-level classes. A new initiative called Bridges, meanwhile, consists of intensive courses to help students complete their math or English requirements faster.
Tri-C began developing FYE a year ago. Though orientation for incoming students is not new, the now-required counseling and class introduction sessions had been voluntary before this year.
"We're coming at this in systematic way, making sure these different components are supporting each other," Schoop says.
Convocation, for example, gives students the broad strokes for what to expect from college, notes the Tri-C Metro Campus president. Participants are then broken up intro groups based on a field of study that garners their interest. While some students might still be undecided on a major, this is a circumstance Tri-C is prepared to meet.
"It's about getting students thinking of a plan and making sure they know what they want to do," says Schoop.
What's the difference?
expect 4,000 students to pass through the program during its first iteration. Many colleges and universities have similar programming to kick off the school year, but it's the linked, all-inclusive nature of FYE that makes it unique, Schoop believes.
For example, job shadowing may be added to FYE later this year. In theory, a student could write an essay about his or her experience that would then be used as basis for discussion in a future first-year course.
"It all ties together," Schoop says.
There could be tweaks made to the new initiative as the year progresses, including an online FYE component, notes Schoop. If all goes well, participants finishing the program will make use of on-campus services, helping them create an academic plan and increasing the likelihood they will register for spring semester and advance toward graduation.
From Tri-C's perspective, the desire is to reach students of every background and level of preparation. The community college has its share of first-generation students and those returning to school after years away, says Schoop. A customized plan not only plots an academic path, it also can dissipate the anxiety of people who may otherwise have difficulty navigating the intricacies of college life.
"Providing an accessible education is the first line in our mission," says Schoop. "If we can help students get clear about what they want to do and how we can support them, they're going to be more successful."