Great ideas can often come from the strangest of situations. For Dr. Greg Eiselein, Donnelly Professor of English and Director of K-State First, the idea for a first-year experience program came about while working on the first task force for the K-State 8. One of the conclusions this task force made was that creation of a first-year experience program would be beneficial for new students. Several faculty members and administrators liked the concept and began meeting unofficially to discuss ideas and implementation.
Provost April Mason encouraged their work, which started with a pilot study to demonstrate the positive impact that a program like this could have. “From the very beginning of the first-year experience program, K-State First was committed to assessment,” said Eiselein. “We decided from the get go that assessment would be the foundation of everything we did.”
What resulted was K-State First, the University’s first-year experience program, which was launched six years ago and has had already some impressive results. Eiselein said that the four main areas of measurable success have been: higher retention rates from freshman to sophomore year, graduation rates and improved time to degree, higher overall GPA, and a greater level of student engagement.
Most importantly, said Eiselein, students are excited about the courses they are taking and excited about college itself. This has led to high engagement rates, with 84 percent of students reporting having an “excellent teacher” and 68 percent having an “excellent course” in the fall of 2016.
The student learning outcomes used to assess the success of the program are critical thinking, communication, community building, and application of learning. According to the K-State First website, these courses “have been developed and organized for students to achieve maximum success during their first-year.”
Departmental collaboration has been a key to the program’s success. Working with other departments to continue to engage first-year students in exciting courses is something many professors have been eager to assist with, said Eiselein.
Just six years after its implementation, this great idea continues to grow, as K-State First engages first-year students and prepares them for a great college experience.
For more information on the assessment methods used for K-State First, please click here.