Thursday, August 18, 2005

During the coming year, Fairmont State University will participate in a national higher education project known as "Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year."

The project, sponsored by the Policy Center on the First Year of College, will use a recently developed model of excellence for the first college year. This model can be used by colleges and universities to develop and refine their overall approach to educating first-year students. Support for this project has been provided by Lumina Foundation for Education, a national philanthropic foundation based in Indianapolis, Ind.

"Nothing helps ensure that a student will graduate from college more than success in the first two semesters," said Dr. Daniel J. Bradley, FSU President. "The Foundations of Excellence program will help FSU improve its service to first-year students, which will mean higher student success rates in the future."

FSU is one of 13 institutions in the 2005-2006 National Select Cohort that were selected to work with the Policy Center and its research partner, Educational Benchmarking, Inc. Since February of 2003, the Foundations of Excellence project has involved more than 300 two- and four-year colleges and universities across the country in identifying the standards ("Foundational Dimensions") that constitute a model first year.

Criteria for selection included a strong campus commitment to students and readiness to engage in evaluation and improvement. Member institutions will measure their effectiveness in recruiting, admitting, orienting, supporting, advising and teaching new students. They will then be able to make programmatic improvements that will increase student learning, success, and persistence. The blueprint will represent the first holistic examination of the many elements that get students off to the right start.

Research has long indicated that new students who are successfully integrated into college are much more likely to succeed. Many colleges, therefore, work especially hard to create a first-rate experience for new students. According to Randy Swing, Co-Director of the Policy Center, attention to the first year will benefit students by helping them to meet their educational goals and will benefit institutions by helping them retain students through graduation.

"While much is known about how a campus can improve new student learning and retention, this information has never been synthesized or translated into aspirational standards that are reflective of best practice," said John N. Gardner, Executive Director of the Policy Center on the First Year of College, located in Brevard, N.C. "The absence of clear standards has powerful educational and financial consequences. This project brings together a number of highly credible researchers, reformers and practitioners, who are creating the blueprint that for too long has been missing."

The institutions selected to participate in the National Select Cohort are Bridgewater State College, Davenport University, Fairmont State University, Georgia Southern University, Indiana State University, Missouri Southern State University, New Mexico State University, Ohio University, Texas A & M - Kingsville, University of Akron, University of Arkansas, Little Rock, University of North Texas and Wright State University.

"Fairmont State believes that the first year of college is extremely important for students, and we want to do everything we can to help students succeed," said Dr. Maria Rose, Associate Vice President for Academic Services. "It's an honor to be able to work with John Gardner, Betsy Barefoot, Randy Swing and others from the Policy Center to gauge how Fairmont State can improve its services to students during the first year of college."

Additional information about the Policy Center and this project can be found at www.fyfoundations.org.