Indiana University East is one of 44 participating higher education institutions in a new project that will focus on improving the first-year of college for underserved students.
Launched February 1, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) project, “Re-Imagining the First Year of College” (RFY), is to ensure success for all students, particularly those who have historically been underserved by higher education: low income, first generation, and students of color. The three-year project is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds.
Interim Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Mary Blakefield said, “This is an important project. We are working to improve student learning in the classroom and through co-curricular experiences. We have an excellent team assembled to look closely at the experiences of our first-year students.”
The first year of college has emerged as the critical barrier to college success, the point at which colleges experience the greatest loss of students. The RFY project recognizes that no single intervention will solve student performance, and that solutions that fail to reflect the differing needs of a changing student body will not be successful.
RFY seeks to inspire redesigned approaches that work effectively for all members of an increasingly diverse, multicultural, undergraduate student body, eliminating the achievement disparities that have plagued American higher education for generations. Ultimately, re-designing this critical first year will allow for broader reform of the undergraduate experience in the future.
The 44 member institutions will work together from 2016-2018 to develop comprehensive, institutional transformation that redesigns the first year of college and creates sustainable change for student success. As a learning community, the member institutions will review and share evidence-based practices, programs and implementation strategies. The RFY initiative entails a comprehensive, “top-down, bottom-up” approach that engages the whole campus in focusing on four key areas to help first-year students succeed: institutional intentionality, curriculum redesign, changes in faculty and staff roles, and changes in student roles.
“Increasing the number of Americans with college degrees is a critical national need,” says George Mehaffy, AASCU Vice President for Academic Leadership and Change. “Research tells us that a college degree not only improves an individual’s economic well-being and overall quality of life, but also helps build the American middle class, assists in strengthening our democracy, and makes the United States stronger and more globally competitive. I am excited that so many AASCU institutions will commit their enormous talent and knowledge to the success of this initiative, which I believe will have a profound effect on undergraduate education in the 21st century.”
Participants will receive extensive support through national meetings, expert webinars, individual consultation, and online resources and tools. The project will build a robust collection of integrated strategies, programs and approaches that participating campuses can adapt to improve student success. As the project advances, AASCU will share key findings with the broader higher education community.
The RFY team leaders from each of the 44 participating universities will meet in Austin, Texas, on February 4 as part of AASCU’s Academic Affairs meeting to formally kick off the project. Within the Indiana University system, IU East is joined by IU Kokomo, IU Northwest, IU South Bend and IU Southeast as participants in the project.
For this grant, IU East Innovation Team members include:
Mary Blakefield, interim vice chancellor for Academic Affairs
Carrie Reisner, interim dean of students
Ange Cooksey, humanities lecturer and president of Faculty Senate
Sarah Harris, assistant professor of English
Brian Brodeur, assistant professor of English
Shari Fowler, lecturer in accounting
Lee Ann Adams, instructor for First-Year Seminar and reading specialist in the School of Education
Sarah Soper, director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships
Oniffe Grizzle, director of Institutional Research and Effectiveness
Elizabeth Miller (student)
For more information about RFY, please visit http://www.aascu.org/RFY/.