New Course to Benefit First-Year Students, Boost Retention

COLUMBUS, Ga. - Columbus State this fall will launch a course to help new students transition to college by applying strategies for academic success, sharpening their life skills and taking advantage of campus resources.

The three-credit “First-Year Seminar” will be “rigorous and activity-based,” said Professor and Basic Studies Department Chair Terry Irvin, who is coordinating the new course.

The course will be mandatory for most incoming first-year students plus older students and transfers with fewer than 30 credit hours. Exceptions are new students majoring in chemistry, education, nursing and some music areas. These students already will be required to enroll in “freshman learning communities,” which are tailored to each discipline.

Student retention is a key objective of the new course, said Irvin. “Research clearly shows that students who leave and don’t return to college tend to do so because they fail to connect with other students, faculty and campus resources,” she said, “The new seminar and over 30 freshman learning communities, another important retention tool, will provide important support for our newest students.”

More than 40 class sections are set, with instructors including CSU President Tim Mescon, the university’s vice presidents, deans and other administrators, plus retired faculty members from various disciplines. They will prepare to deliver the course through a pair of workshops.

These instructors will, in turn, prepare students for college-level academic success with focus on critical thinking, study, oral presentation, writing, information literacy and research skills.

The seminar also will prepare students to “connect” with their professors by understanding faculty expectations of them and seeking input from them outside the classroom.

Course assignments also will address campus policies, resources and academic services — significantly university rules regarding academic honesty, the grading system, academic probation policies, registration and financial aid procedures, and tutoring and advising services.

Peer-to-peer connections will be fostered through course activities such as a “common reading,” in which all students taking the course discuss the same book. This fall’s designated book is Ishmael Beah’s A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier. This story of a child soldier in Sierra Leone’s civil war, complements the seminar’s “foundations of global learning” objective to introduce and whet the students’ interest in international study, Irvin said.

Life skills that are covered include personal and career goals, time management and financial responsibility.

The new seminar will replace and expand upon the former, non-required “College Success” course and complements the broader First Year Experience Program facilitated by University College. The program includes the annual freshman convocation, new student orientation and the Adult Re-Entry Program.