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First Question

What is the most important experience of first year students at UMM?

In order to involve the entire campus in our process, the First Year Experience Disappearing Task Force will be using this blog to ask questions of our community and record responses. Our first question is:

What is the most important experience of first year students at UMM?

Comments

I echo the sentiments regarding the importance of meaningful connections and relationships during the first year (and ideally the first month) of college. In my work with transfer students I am often privy to the frustrations that they are experiencing at their previous institutions. Rarely do students transfer to UMM solely because of our academic reputation. Rather, they are frustrated by their current environment that is too big, too impersonal, or the feeling that nobody cares about them. When they experience the environment at UMM they immediately struck by anyone on campus who will go the extra mile to help. Although students who are new to the college experience do not have another college as a comparison, they do have expectations for their college experience. If they don't feel connected to UMM at an early stage there is room for the natural doubts and struggles that are often connected to college life to take hold. With a support system in place it is much easier to face those challenges and persist.

I think the most important experience for first year students is making connections on campus--as several others have mentioned. It might be with their roommate, faculty member or work study supervisor, but by the end of first semester, students need to feel CONNECTED to someone.

College gives you the chance to really explore who you are and your world around you! While at Morris, you should take advantage of the numerous clubs and organizations which interest you! Attend a random meeting, make a friend from another culture or region in the US, travel to a rural/urban area...
This is your life so live it your way...

The most important experience, given the mission of UMM, is becoming immersed in the academic life with faculty and students, discovering the broader world that learning brings.
The social connections that have been mentioned are important to help students connect with others, but the intellectual focus is fundamental.

The most important experience as a first year student is to realize what it is like living away from home, and stepping out of their comfort zone to meet new people. It is important to take a variety of classes to really figure out what you want to do with your life.

I agree with anydy and Chris, but I also think we have to do much more to help students succeed academically. The correlation between failure and attrition is too important to miss.

I agree with Andy Lopez.

I think the most important thing is a personal connection of some kind... whether with friends, faculty or work. Everything else falls into place after that.

I think for most students, college is like hitting puberty again. They're in a constant state of comparing themselves to everyone else, fearing they're falling behind (socially, academically) or, at least, not matching up.

CB

Many students come to UMM not understanding what the liberal arts are. I would like to see the FYS include a component studying the liberal arts, their history and their importance in today's world.

I also agree with the people who wrote that students need to learn what professors and UMM expects of them, academically and socially.

As a librarian and FYS instructor I have several perspectives. I think making the transition to an academic environment is a important experience to first-year students. Equally important is the transition socially and personally. Both facets should probably be addressed in a FYS.

Simply finding a place where they fit in. Academics are important, but students need to find a social group right away with whom they can identify and of whom they can be a part.

As a librarian at Briggs Library and as a first-time FYS teacher I see several perspectives. First year students at UMM need to make the transition academically to a college environment and all that is expected of them. They also need to make transition socially.

Connecting with other students, faculty and staff that they are excited about them and can get along with them.

Of course since I work in Residence Life, I would like to see students understand what it's like to live with a roommate, on a floor and in a residence hall, but that's just me being biased toward the benefit of living in a residence hall. I would say the most important experience for UMM students would be to simply be acclimated to college life... INCLUDING basic life skills and getting to know professors. Most students coming to colleges and universities today have never been away from home for an extended period of time before or lived in the same room as another person or shared a bathroom. In order for students to be successful in classes, they must first be acclimated and comfortable within their surroundings: on-campus, campus community, Morris and for some students, even the state of Minnesota.

Since I work where freshman students live, I hear them complain a lot about not knowing what college life is like, not having time management skills and not understanding what is expected from them from professors, staff, other students, family, etc. They also find the current FYS classes somewhat confusing regarding what type of First Year Education they are getting. They don't necessarily always understand the connection between what they are being taught and how the courses are to help them through their college career. We need to help them become comfortable and acclimated first of all before we can expect them to be successful.

The most important first year experience is, like Maria pointed out, the connection to faculty and academia in general. I regret not getting to know my advisors better as I feel that it may have made my first year experience much richer. This would also transfer into a deeper experience through graduation.

The most important experience of First Year Students at UMM is the intellectual transition and maturation from high school to university. This is exemplified by, but not limited to, the transition from being able to memorize and repeat facts, to being able to see for themselves the connections between these facts. When a student can do this across his/her classes and subjects they have "arrived" intellectually.

Service Learning courses.

The most important experience is to connect with faculty / a department that is relevant to the student. A student can get involved in an activity, but that is easily replaceable at another school. Often, they are not leaders within the organizations right away either. When a student connects with a faculty member or gets involved in a department, it ties in their education with a sense of belonging, which is not easily replaceable and transferring would entail a great loss.

I was prepared to transfer after my freshman year. I had applications all but sent off. But, through my FYS and classes, I got connected with my adviser and started to work with a faculty member. This reassured me that I was on the right track, that I was getting a good education, that I had all the resources I would need to do well at Morris, and most of all, Morris began to feel like home.