The 35th annual First-Year Experience Conference was held Feb. 20–23 in Orlando, Florida, and four Washburn peer educators had the honor of attending.
Kayla Johnson, senior marketing major, Kinsey Ashworth, senior history major, Christina Foreman, senior management, marketing and entrepreneurship triple major and Alex Winter, sophomore forensic anthropology major, represented Washburn University’s First-Year Experience peer educators.
First-Year Experience prepares students for the transition from high school to college and gives them the resources they need to succeed in college. Faculty, staff, and peer educators work together to empower and support students by providing courses, programs and services to help students become information literate and promote success inside and outside of the classroom.
“I think [First-Year Experience] is important because it builds a support system for incoming freshmen,” Foreman said. “[Peer Educators] care so much about our students that we want to see them succeed and we are hoping that we’re building them a support system they can come back to over and over and over again through their years at college.”
At the conference, Johnson was named a Jordan Smith Undergraduate Student Fellow. This means she had to write five different essays discussing how she feels she has made an impact on First-Year Experience and what impact the program has made on her.
The award went to pay for her conference entrance fees so she could attend and learn more about First-Year Experience to bring back and inform Washburn peer educators.
In addition to Johnson receiving her award, Ashworth, Foreman and Winter presented at the conference. They spoke about “Enhancing Retention through the Student Employee Experience,” which highlighted that First-Year Experience tries to give students real work experiences, which in turn has made Washburn be able to retain more students.
During their session they discussed what the three of them do as undergraduate research assistants, working for the Center for Student Success and Retention, to help with retention. Their presentation was met with high regards, as they were the only panel created and led by undergraduate students presenting at the conference.
At the conference, many sessions with a wide variety of topics were attended by peer educators from across the country. Session topics ranged from “maintaining a commitment to a diverse student body” to “exploring the first year of post-secondary education in the international context” and “exploring teaching tools and technology to enhance learning.”
“One of my favorite things is just getting to know the students, and figuring out what they’re struggling with so we can help them and make this the easiest transition as possible, but also making it an enjoyable one,” Winter said.