St. Olaf College Committee on the First-Year Experience
Download the CoFYE final report as a PDF file here.
Project Title: Creating a Coherent First-Year Experience at St. Olaf College
In our June 2003 grant application, St. Olaf College's Committee on First-Year Experience (CoFYE) proposed to develop an innovative model of inquiry for exploring in depth the profile of our incoming students. We proposed to describe the purpose, methods, and desired outcomes of each of the component parts of the first-year experience, as well as to articulate our overall vision, including goals and expectations, of the first year of a liberal arts education at St. Olaf College. We proposed to study the compatibility between the students we enroll and the first-year experience we provide.
The Self Study: Scope and Methods of Inquiry
A faculty and staff committee representing student support services and the first-year curriculum studied profiles of and trends among first-year students at St. Olaf College as they compare to first-year students nationally. We focused on student engagement, asking to what extent first-year students at St. Olaf engage academically and socially, how St. Olaf's National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) (note: link to St. Olaf NSSE data will only work from an on campus location) data compare with national data, and how St. Olaf's curriculum and support services work to engage students. To gauge national trends, we read Millennials Go to College by Neil Howe and William Strauss, Making the Most of Your College Experience by Richard Light, and Clueless in Academe by Gerald Graff, in addition to numerous related articles.
CoFYE systematically studied St. Olaf support services that typically serve first-year students. Representatives from these offices met with our committee, described their support for first-year students, and provided documents available to students through their offices. CoFYE became a central repository for otherwise scattered information about support resources.
After completing an inventory of required courses and courses in which first-year students typically enroll, CoFYE facilitated a series of focus groups with over 100 students and 40 faculty. Focus group questions paralleled selected areas of inquiry found in NSSE, which St. Olaf conducts every other year. Focus group results enabled us to read NSSE data with greater insight. More importantly, repeated reference to subtle or weak connections among components of the first-year experience suggested one area for curricular and faculty development.
Four members of our committee, two faculty and two staff, facilitated a roundtable discussion about our self-study at the 2005 Annual National Conference on the First-Year Experience. We attended pre-conference workshops and a number of sessions involving the Foundational Dimensions developed by the Policy Center on the First Year of College. Although we came to these guiding statements fairly late in our self-study, they reinforced our initial impulse to study the first year and to refine our model of inquiry. http://www.stolaf.edu/stulife/deanofstudents/fye/selfstudyrecc.html
Additional Sections of the
Committee on the First-year Experience (CoFYE) Report