Class gives students first year edge at WU

Cindy Rose / Washburn Review

New Washburn students fresh out of high school have a way to become oriented with college life on a very personal level. The Washburn First Year Experience pilot program was implemented in the fall semester of 2011. It’s all about the connection to the college community.

“The FYE program is dedicated to the success of first year students,” said John Dahlstrand, assistant dean of student success. “So often, students don’t return their second year. They don’t know where to go for help or are intimidated and overwhelmed by the whole college experience.”

Dahlstrand also said that students tend to have more challenges transitioning from either high school to college or life in between.

Dahlstrand said the WU 101 class is an important component of the FYE program and is, in part, an “extended orientation course” that focuses on three main areas. One is to make students aware of the resources and services that are available to them on campus. The second is to help them develop strong skills and strategies to become academically successful. The third is to have them learn about how the library is a key part of the academic experience.

“A unique format of WU 101 that I think its important to mention is the nature of instruction,” said Dahlstrand.

The class includes a team of five: a lead faculty member, a personal librarian, two peer educators and in the fall semester, an academic advisor was present for each student.

“WU 101 is an important piece of the FYE program, but it’s not the only one,” said Dahlstrand. “We don’t want people to think it’s just the course.”

The program incorporates other elements already in place at Washburn, like workshops and other events, such as the “iread” program.

“The idea is to have a common reading program where students are reading the same book, and it is integrated into the fabric of the University,” said Dahlstrand.

Chris Bird is a freshman who entered FYE last semester.

“It’s a terrific program,” said Bird. “I couldn’t say a negative word about it. The teachers keep it entertaining, and they teach you to become ‘information literate,'”

Bird also found the peer mentors an important factor and said he would like to be a peer mentor next year.

“It’s nice to have another student you feel you can talk to about anything; even things not related to school,” said Bird. “They help you with anything that’s an issue in your life. I respected how good they were at it. I just want to do that and be that for somebody else.”

Bird recommends the program to other first year students.

“I would say absolutely take it,” said Bird. “You get involved in WU activities, like football games and events. You’re shown everything that goes on around campus. You feel like you’re a part of this place and involved with it.”

Tanner Bernd, a first year student from Parsons, Kan., also praises the FYE.

 “Everyone is extremely helpful,” said Bernd. “They are always there to help, and everyone cares about your experience at WU. It makes it comfortable to be here and helps jumpstart college life. They made my first semester easier. I’m really glad I took it.”

The team even helped Bernd get a job. He said that the “success team” allowed him to have a connection to college life and kept him informed of what was happening around campus.

 “Ultimately, what we want is for students to stay at Washburn,” said Dahlstrand. “More importantly, we want them to graduate from Washburn.”