**NOTE: Recommendations 1, 2, and 3 and Appendix C were approved by the Faculty Senate and by Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift

 

New Student Seminar Task Force Report and Recommendations

June, 2004

 

Members of the Task Force included:

 

Mal Goldsmith, Chairperson

Karen Patty-Graham

Janet McReynolds

Norris Manning

David Sill

 

 

Introduction and Historical Perspective

 

     Should SIUE adopt a requirement for all new incoming freshmen to complete a new student seminar? The task force believes the answer should be ‘yes.' The following pages provide both summary and detail to support this position.

     Over the past 17 years at SIUE, the New Student Seminar has evolved into a viable and significant experience for those involved. SIUE first considered a freshman experience course as part of the Freshman First program in 1987. After approval by the Curriculum Council and forwarding to the Faculty Senate, the course proposal was sent back for rework. Subsequently, a new one hour class UNIV 100 was created. This was eventually replaced by UNIV 112, for which the content and number of credits were modified. Over the next several years other courses were created or adapted to serve the purpose of orienting students to the University experience. These included CIV 115 and DS 120 (HONS 120).

     Appendix C contains a copy of the New Student Seminar proposal, dated April 30, 2002 . The proposal was developed in consultation with many faculty, administrators, and other members of the University community, including the New Student Transition Task Force (See Appendix D)

     The proposal of April 30, 2002 presents the compilation of ideas at SIUE which have been articulated by many, since 1987: no single seminar may be appropriate for all of SIUE's new freshmen because of the great diversity among them; several different kinds of seminars may be appropriate based upon the experience of faculty and staff with the three existing seminars (UNIV 112, CIV 115, DS 120). The goals for these seminars and any new seminars that may be developed would be common ones found in the 2002 proposal on page 2.

 

1.  To assist new freshman in making the transition to college level work and expectations;

 

2.  To orient students to the services and culture of the University;

 

3.  To engage students in an intellectual community of students and faculty.

 

     In the Spring Semester of 2003 the Task Force was charged by the Curriculum Council with investigating the need for and feasibility of a required Freshman New Student Seminar. This charge to the Task Force was prompted by the development of the New Student Seminar proposal, dated April 30, 2002 , which the Faculty Senate Curriculum Council received and discussed during Spring 2003. (The proposal may be found in Appendix C.) Over the past year and a half the New Student Seminar Task Force investigated and carried out this charge. The Task Force reviewed literature, conducted focus groups with instructors of UNIV 112, CIV 115 and HONS 120 courses, reviewed student evaluations of the UNIV 112 class, reviewed data from SIUE's National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), and communicated with the New Student Transition Task Force. The documents and discussion that follow provide background literature, specific recommendations and accompanying rationale.

 

     The values and benefits that accrue to current students who enroll in one of the freshman seminars are as follows:

 

•  Enhanced student retention and graduation

•  Greater involvement in campus life

•  Increased knowledge and use of support services

•  Increased levels of out of class interaction with faculty and academic advisers

•  Increased connectedness with other students

•  Increased overall satisfaction with the college experience

•  Positive impact on instructors who teach the seminar

•  Greater knowledge of the University's mission vision and values

     The recommendations from the New Student Seminar Task Force follow.

 

Recommendation 1

     The Task Force recommends to the Curriculum Council a required New Freshman Student Seminar, as outlined in the April 30, 2002 New Student Seminar Proposal (See appendix C), be phased in as funding becomes identified.

 

 

Rationale

 

     SIUE has a history of providing some type of a Freshman New Student Seminar experience, first piloted in 1987. Presently a little under one-third of SIUE new freshmen enroll in such an experience. SIUE's experience with new student seminars has revealed positive effects for students and a commitment on the part of involved faculty and staff. Offering a Freshman New Student Seminar experience provides an opportunity to support the mission and value of the institution. The literature and NSSE data specifically support the advantages of requiring such a seminar (see appendices). Requiring the seminar will benefit the University in practical ways by helping to address retention issues, improve satisfaction levels and encourage more effective utilization of campus programs and services. For students, a Freshman New Student Seminar provides opportunities to build connections with other students, helps them feel that they are a more integral part of the University community, and enhances their opportunities for success. Nationally over 70% of college campuses offer a Freshman Seminar program. Of four year institutions offering the seminar, 37% have it as a required three-hour course.

 

Recommendation 2

     The Task Force recommends that the Curriculum Council and the Faculty Senate include a Freshman New Student Seminar component in any renewal of the General Education Program.

 

Rationale

 

     The evidence supporting the inclusion of a Freshman New Student Seminar in the curriculum is strong and compelling in the view of the Task Force. That evidence is not dependent on the structure and design of the current General Education Program. A Freshman New Student Seminar would be equally valuable in most if not all possible general education designs.

 

    The Objectives Steering Committee Report (2003) included “Integration” as one of four Emerging Concerns:

INTEGRATION: How do we link one area of knowledge with another? How do we link students to each other, to faculty, and to the community and the world? How do we integrate students' learning experiences from admission through graduation? (p. 17)

     A Freshman New Student Seminar can directly respond to the last two questions above. It can help students make linkages to each other and to faculty. In some formats such as service learning, it can also help make linkages to the community and the world. A Freshman New Student Seminar can also assist students in making the transition from admission through the first year of study.

 

Recommendation 3

     The Task Force recommends that a Freshman New Student Seminar Committee be appointed and charged by the President of the Faculty Senate, the Chair of the Curriculum Council, and the Chair of the New Student Seminar Task Force. The Committee would be a standing committee of the Curriculum Council. The purpose of the Committee is to address the following transition issues: 1) planning for implementation, including an examination of course format(s), structure(s), and content of the Freshman New Student Seminar, and 2) implementation and monitoring.

Rationale

     There are many administrative issues that need to be addressed in order to successfully implement the Freshman New Student Seminar. A list of anticipated administrative issues may be found in Appendix B. One of the first tasks of the Freshman New Student Seminar Committee will be to develop and implement a set of criteria by which to review courses proposed to meet the freshman seminar goals and requirements in the 2002 proposal (see pages 1 and 2). The process of review and approval will be the same as for other new courses (Form 90A) or course modifications (Form 90C).

 

 

Appendix C

New Student Seminar Proposal - April 30, 2002

 

Introduction:

 

This proposal would require new freshmen to complete a new student seminar requirement in the first term of attendance. Under this proposal, a variety of current courses would satisfy the requirement, including University 112 (UNIV 112), Culture, Ideas and Values 115 (CIV 115), and Deans Scholars 120 (DS 120). Learning communities (linked courses with common enrollment and coordination between faculty), courses yet to be developed, and special sections of existing courses could also be used to meet this requirement.

 

Regardless of form, the new student seminar courses would share the following common goals: to assist new freshmen in making the transition from high school to college level work and expectations, to orient the students to the services and culture of the University, and to engage students in an intellectual community of students and faculty. The intent of the final goal includes involving students in activities that build a spirit of community and that enable them to become well acquainted with each other as unique individuals. The intent also includes the opportunity for new freshmen to get to know at least one faculty member in their first term, a positive factor in student persistence.

 

Under this proposal, the General Education Committee would be responsible for reviewing new courses and approving those that meet the shared goals described above. Approval of sections of existing courses and learning communities that satisfy the new student seminar requirement would be the responsibility of the College of Arts and Sciences, under guidelines approved by the General Education Committee. This proposal suggests the following draft guidelines in which approved sections will:

 

(1) Meet the three goals.

(2) Consist of 20-25 students.

(3) Have at least 3 out-of-class activities for the instructor(s) and

students to attend or engage in.

(4) Have at least 3 class activities to acquaint students with the

resources and culture of the University.

 

Proposed Text:

 

New Student Seminar Requirement

 

The University requires that every new freshman student complete a new student seminar during the first term of attendance. The seminar requirement may be met by completing UNIV 112, Culture, Ideas and Values 115, Deans Scholars 120, any approved learning community (linked courses), or any section of an introductory or distribution General Education course that has been approved as a new student seminar. New student seminar courses that meet this requirement have common goals: to assist new freshmen in making the transition to college level work and expectations, to orient students to the services and culture of the university, and to engage students in an intellectual community of students and faculty.

 

 

 

Following is the proposed text for the Undergraduate Catalog.

 

Other Requirements

 

New Student Seminar Requirement

 

The University requires that all new freshmen complete a new student seminar during their first term. The seminar requirement may be met by completing UNIV 112, Culture, Ideas and Values 115, Deans Scholars 120, any approved learning community (linked courses), or any section of an introductory or distribution General Education course that has been approved as a new student seminar. New Student seminar courses that meet this requirement have common goals: to assist new freshmen in making the transition to college level work and expectations, to orient students to the services and culture of the university, and to engage students in an intellectual community of students and faculty.

 

A course meeting the new student seminar requirement may also be used to fulfill major, minor, elective or General Education requirements.

 

Intergroup Relations and International Issues or International Culture Requirements

 

The State of Illinois requires that public institutions of higher education

include ….

 

 

Rationale:

 

     The development of freshman experience courses has been motivated by a growing body of evidence and theory on positive and negative factors concerning freshman persistence and success. As early as 1928, Meiklejohn identified the difficulty that freshman have with the transition from high school to college. In 1977 and again in 1993, Astin identified student engagement as one of the strongest factors in student success. In 1991, Pascarella and Terenzini identified the importance of socialization with faculty and student peers. In 1998, Tinto argued, based on research findings, that student persistence and success is improved by engaging students in communities of faculty and students centered around learning.

 

     SIUE first considered a Freshman First Program that included a Freshman Experience course in 1987. At that time, the proposal was approved by the Curriculum Council, but the Faculty Senate returned it to the Curriculum Council for rework. There were a number of concerns including cost, workability, and the place and appropriateness of the program in the curriculum. Over the next year, the proposal for a program was replaced by a one-credit course, UNIV 100. Later, UNIV 100 was replaced by UNIV 112, in which the number of credits was changed and the content was revised. Throughout the history of UNIV 112, there have been concerns that the cost of the program could harm existing programs through the level of reallocation needed to fund the required number of sections. Since UNIV 112 was approved, there have been some but not enough new state allocations to fund a UNIV 112 requirement fully.

 

     A number of faculty objected to proposals that would require UNIV 100, UNIV 112, or some other non-disciplinary based alternative because it would either increase the number of required units outside the major or would push out of the General Education curriculum a content or skills course requirement. Increasing the number of required courses would increase the effective number of credits for graduation for students in some majors beyond the 124 credits required for graduation.

 

     As we have gained experience with offering UNIV 112, a third objection has surfaced, which is that the course may work well for some students but does not work well for all. For some students, a disciplinary based or interdisciplinary new student seminar is a better alternative. In response to that objection, we have piloted several alternatives, including the development of CIV 115 and DS 120. DS 120 was instituted to improve the coherence of the Chancellor's Scholars and Deans' Scholars programs. Experience with DS 120 and CIV 115 over the past few years has demonstrated that content based freshman courses can serve the purposes that have been identified for the freshman experience course.

 

     This proposal addresses these objections by allowing for variety in the ways that students may satisfy the new student seminar requirement, several of which involve content based courses that satisfy general education requirements. The effect on the budget is mitigated by imbedding the requirement in content courses that are currently being taught and are required in the current general education program. While there will be increased cost because of a class size smaller than most current 111's, that increase is much less than the increased cost of offering a new course with the same class size to the entire new freshman class. Plus, some of the alternatives are already funded and being offered, and other alternatives are already taught in small enough sections to involve no additional cost.

 

     An introductory course that serves as a new student seminar should be more than a small section version of a standard 111 class. Rather, it should be fundamentally different, more like a graduate seminar in focusing on some issue or problem, and exploring the discipline by seeing how it approaches the issue or problem. The work of the seminar should by its nature encourage team-building and learning about the university -- learning about the university both in the straightforward sense of "where is the library?" and "how do I use the on-line library catalogue?" and in the deeper sense of "what does it mean to care about ideas?" The seminar should, in other words, teach by example. If the seminar works as it should it will not be necessary to "take time" from the teaching of the discipline in order to acquaint students with the university. Learning about the university will be an inevitable consequence of learning about the discipline.

 

     Full implementation of this proposal will require faculty development, course development, and funding. The quality of the new student seminars will be dependent on the course design as well as the preparation of faculty who teach the seminars. New courses and modifications of existing courses will require time for development and approval. Faculty without experience in teaching CIV 115 or UNIV 112 should participate in workshops and seminars to prepare for teaching new student seminars. Faculty teaching new student seminars should have several years teaching experience and be continuing faculty or term faculty expected to be teaching for multiple years. Because the building of faculty, course and funding resources will take time, the proposed date for full implementation is Fall Semester 2007.

 

     Staff have been valuable participants in the offering of UNIV 112. It is the intent of this proposal that staff continue to participate in the new student seminar program in UNIV 112 and in other courses as well, including possible new courses that may be developed.

 

     The Office of Undergraduate Assessment and Program Review will be responsible for working with the College of Arts and Sciences in developing and implementing a formal assessment designed for improvement of the new student seminars.

 

Works Cited:

 

Astin, Alexander W. What Matters in College: Four Critical Years Revisited. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 1993.

Astin, Alexander W. Four Critical Years. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 1977.

Meiklejohn, Alexander. The Experimental College. New York : Harper & Brothers, 1932.

Pascarella, Ernest T. and Patrick T. Terenzini. How College Affects Students. San Francisco : Jossey-Bass, 1991.

Tinto, Vincent. “Colleges as Communities: Taking Research on Student Persistence Seriously.” Review of Higher

             Education. 21:2. 1998.

 

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