Report on the self study of excellence in the first year at CCRI FOUNDATIONS OF EXCELLENCE Background The Foundations of Excellence is a self-study process developed by the Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. John Gardner pioneered the First Year Experience movement during his time at the University of South Carolina. For nearly 30 years, Gardner has been at the forefront of translating research on first-year students into effective programs and practices Process The Foundations of Excellence process is centered around nine aspirational Dimensions of the first-year experience. It is a self-study, not an accreditation. We determine what is the appropriate aspirational level for CCRI and how well we meet our own expectations. It is data driven and requires evidence for any recommendations. The Gardner Institute reviews all reports to ensure that all recommendations have a firm basis in the evidence. 114 faculty, staff and students have spent the last eleven months working on this process. Key Data Students (1263 respondents) are generally satisfied with their first year at CCRI across all campuses and all demographics. They are least satisfied with opportunities for exposure to diversity, their ability to make connections here and the match between their courses and their perceived abilities. Faculty and staff (41% responded) have never differentiated between new and returning students and do not believe that the institution has organized itself to address the specific needs of first-year students. Recommendations Philosophy Develop an institutional philosophy statement for the First Year Student that is clear and specific about the institution’s goals for students in their first two semesters and that identifies student retention as the responsibility of all members of the college community Without clear learning goals and objectives, we cannot adequately communicate expectations, accurately advise students, align resources with goals, or demonstrate and prove effectiveness. Faculty and staff rated this area poorly on the institutional survey Recommendations Curricular Intentionality Reform the General Studies Program by identifying “tracks” more consistent with student intentions and to allow for more self-identification with the institution. Also, appoint a Coordinator/Program Director to oversee the program, evaluate data, work with discipline specific Department Chairs to refine the curriculum to better align with student intentions. Over 50% of our students are placed into General Studies. The program is large, poorly defined and provides no supportive mechanisms for students. Astin has demonstrated for decades that affiliation within the institution is a top predictor of persistence. The student survey indicates students do not feel a connection. This group needs more attention and more direction to be successful. A review of requirements should be conducted to ensure relevancy and effectiveness. Recommendations Curricular Intentionality Refine Developmental Education by instituting mandatory placement for students placing into remedial courses, strengthening pre-requisites for college level courses, and appointing a Coordinator/Program Director to oversee the program and evaluate data. 74% of new students place into developmental education courses. Half of our top ten feeder schools do not meet the state average on the NECAP. These students need dedicated staff and more prescriptive curricula to gain the skills necessary to succeed in college. Recommendations Curricular Intentionality Promote consistency of faculty services by addressing issues surrounding office hours, orientation and professional development of adjunct faculty including identifying a prototype /“universal” syllabus template. Adjunct faculty are most heavily concentrated in our first-year courses. They receive less training and supervision then full time faculty members. This cohort cannot be overlooked or excused from efforts to improve the first-year experience. Similarly, students report out-of-class connection to faculty as an area for improvement as well as consistent communication of expectations and behaviors. Recommendations Curricular Intentionality Establish an intentional approach to the First Year Experience Courses by clearly identifying target populations, eliminating duplication and establishing advising criteria. Require a FYE course for General Studies students. Link an FYE course to developmental courses. National and Institutional data have proven the effectiveness of FYE courses. Currently, the array of FYE courses at CCRI are unfocused, isolated and unaffiliated. Registration is left to chance. Recommendations Curricular Intentionality Clearly map and then demonstrate the relationship between courses taken and institutional learning outcomes by mapping the Curriculum as it relates to the Educated Person, mapping the Gen Ed core to the Educated person, reducing the number of Gen Ed core courses to clarify pathways for new students. Establish learning goals for all new students and learning outcomes for all courses and programs As demonstrated through the student survey, most CCRI students have difficulty understanding the relevance between required courses, learning outcomes, and personal goals. The overall appearance to students is random and mechanical. Recommendations Proactive Student Services Redesign New Student Orientation to reach all new students, to be more interactive, to allow for more personal interaction, and to clearly communicate philosophies, expectations, rationales, and requirements. Explore opportunities of greater collaboration within the college. The student survey clearly indicates that new students do not feel connected to the institution and, in comparison to similar institution in the survey, report statistically significant lower means on multiple areas of satisfaction. Recommendations Proactive Student Services Examine advising models and processes for opportunities for more intrusive and prescriptive advising of new students. This may include faculty and/or peer advising models. Generate career pathways for General Studies students similar to transfer plans. While the student survey indicates that students feel that advisors do a good job, the comparative data suggests that too many of our students do not benefit from these relationships. The presence of a clear career goal is a top predictor of student retention, nationally. Recommendations Proactive Student Services Revamp communication policies and processes for new students including MyCCRI, website, print media, and telecommunications. The student survey clearly demonstrates that students lack information about multiple programs and offices necessary for college success. Communication strategies need to be more active and effective for how students communicate. Recommendations Proactive Student Services Create a faculty-driven Early Warning System that provides direct feedback to students while automating notification of necessary student support services for an aggressive intervention early in each semester. Students report less awareness of available academic support services and fewer of them feel that CCRI helped them succeed than similar institutions at statistically significant levels. Recommendations Proactive Student Services Evaluate all Student Service operations for opportunities to reach out and engage first-year students at developmentally and chronologically appropriate times. This requires examination of schedules, staffing patterns, communication methods, and offered services. The student survey overwhelming indicates that new students feel disconnected and uninformed and that they seek opportunities to experience new things, new ideas, and new people, but they lack the knowledge or skills to do so. Engaged students are more likely to persist and become active alumni. Recommendations Professional Development Create an strategic initiative that links pedagogy to student engagement and retention. Increase professional development opportunities for full time and adjunct faculty. Support the CITLA as a vehicle for faculty exploration of varying teaching methods and their effectiveness. Facilitate strategic re-thinking of services and programs as they relate to best practices in first-year student services. Provide ongoing and regular professional development for staff to better understand the needs of first-year students. Recommendations Ongoing Assessment and Implementation. Formalize a First-Year Committee that focuses on issues facing first-year students across the institution and charged with implementing the approved recommendations. Data from the Gardner Institute shows that institutions who actively and consistently engage in implementing Foundations of Excellence recommendations experience higher gains (8.2%) in first to second year retention rates than those who do not actively engage their recommendations. Closing This process puts students at the center of the decision-making process. Their success is our success. Change is necessary to achieve our goals. We cannot keep doing as we have always done and expect a difference. This is a collective responsibility for the entire institution. No one department, area, or person can effect the changes necessary. It will take everyone’s commitment and effort.