Dear Students, Faculty, Staff and Families: The start of the spring semester is quickly approaching, and many in our community are working diligently to prepare for the return of our students and to safely resume in-person teaching and learning. We…
Progress Report: Enhancing the First-Year Experience
Dozens of students, faculty and staff have been engaged in refining the first-year forums, seminars and courses offered to students this fall. The collaborative group, known as the First-Year Experience Initiative Steering Committee, is also working on a long-term plan to establish a unified first-year experience course for all Syracuse University students. Much progress has been made, according to committee co-chairs Kira Reed, Provost Faculty Fellow and chair of the Senate Committee on Curricula, and Amanda Nicholson, assistant provost and dean of student success, who provided this recent update:
What has been the level of participation in the shared reading experience for entering students?
Trevor Noah’s book “Born a Crime” was selected for the shared reading for all first-year and transfer students as part of the Syracuse Reads Program. The program developed from a recommendation by the Chancellor’s Workgroup on Diversity and Inclusion (CWDI) to enhance the new student orientation experience. The Trevor Noah book explores themes of diversity, inclusion and belonging—and what it means to come together as a community to share those ideals.
Thus far, more than 6,000 books have been distributed, including more than 2,500 complimentary copies picked up at the SU Bookstore. Shared reading discussion sessions (SEM 100) began last week (Sept. 24) under the direction of about 400 peer and lead facilitators who were trained over the past several months.
What support and resources are available to faculty to help them deal with these issues in the classroom?
Deans of several schools and colleges requested that the Inclusive Teaching professional development workshop be made available to more faculty. The three-hour workshops—titled “Inclusive Teaching in the Classroom and Beyond”—were originally organized as part of the First-Year Experience Initiative and engaged a total of 327 instructors over six workshops conducted Aug. 16-24.
Designed and created by faculty for faculty, and built using materials crowdsourced from Syracuse colleagues, the workshops were originally developed to coach the more than 150 instructors of anchor courses on the use of inclusive teaching practices to prepare them to effectively address the diverse needs and abilities of first-year undergraduate students.
Participation in the workshops expanded when the Newhouse School and the College of Visual and Performing Arts requested that all full-time faculty in their schools participate. Looking ahead, Whitman will hold a workshop on Oct. 12, bringing the total number of faculty who have experienced it to more than 400.
Recently, Jeffery Mangram, associate professor in the School of Education (SOE), specializing in urban education and media literacy, and co-director of the media and education master’s degree program offered jointly by SOE and the Newhouse School, was appointed a Provost’s Faculty Fellow. In his new role, Mangram will further advance the curriculum for the Inclusive Teaching faculty development workshop to include faculty in all schools and colleges.
In addition to the workshops for faculty, leaders throughout the campus have participated in Diversity and Inclusion Leadership Excellence workshops, provided by internationally renowned diversity and inclusion expert Damon A. Williams. On Sept. 17 and 18, nearly 180 senior associate deans, associate deans, department chairs, program directors and others holding leadership positions across campus participated in workshops sponsored by the Center for Faculty Leadership and Professional Development and Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs LaVonda N. Reed.
Looking down the road, what are the plans for a new unified first-year course to be required of all new students?
Discussions have occurred with senior leadership at each school and college regarding a permanent, three-credit, liberal arts course that will provide all new students with a unified first-year course that covers critical topics. The Long-Term Course Subcommittee–composed of more than 20 students, faculty and staff, and chaired by College of Arts and Sciences Senior Associate Dean Gerry Greenberg–developed the course prototype. University College has already voted to adopt the proposed course into its curriculum. School/college-level voting will occur in schools and colleges through early November regarding the adoption of this University-required course. The course must be approved by the University Senate, which is expected to consider it for a vote later this semester. Also, a survey was recently launched to gauge the expertise and preferred compensation model of existing SU faculty members who have an interest in teaching this course.
What other efforts are being made to enhance the environment for first-year students and help them holistically adjust to university life?
All incoming first-year and transfer students were sent two Everfi online modules during the summer–one regarding alcohol and substance abuse, the other regarding sexual assault. To date 3,349 students have completed the former module and 3,436 the latter. In addition, Speak About It sessions were attended by 3,545 first-year and transfer students during opening weekend. Speak About It is a thought-provoking, performance-based presentation dealing with sexual consent, assault, misconduct and bystander intervention. The program also introduced students to the many resources on campus.
The first ever Be Well Expo took place on Sept. 30 and featured a vast array of resources, with 47 exhibitors and interactive experiences available in the Dome. Examples of these included a climbing wall, a life-sized Zen garden, pet therapy, E-sports, multiple health and wellness student organizations, plus representatives from both the M.I.N.D. Lab (Newhouse) and the Contemplative Collaborative. Also featured was ABC News anchor and author Dan Harris, who shared his own experience discovering meditation and mindfulness. The expo was one of three health and wellness requirements for new students. While launched as part of the First-Year Experience Initiative, the event was open to all Syracuse University students, faculty and staff with valid SUID.
Anyone with questions or comments about enhancing the First-Year Experience may contact Amanda Nicholson and Kira Reed by emailing email@example.com.