California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) has been selected by American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) to participate in its three-year “Re-Imagining the First Year of College”(RFY) project, a sweeping initiative aimed at transforming the first year of college to enhance students’ success in their undergraduate years and in the 21st century workforce.
“CSUDH is pleased and excited to be among only 44 universities selected across the nation to be part of AASCU’s Re-Imagining the First Year of College,” said Ellen Junn, CSUDH provost and vice president of academic affairs. “Our campus has been very proactive in implementing a range of new initiatives for freshmen and all students on campus that are yielding substantial student success outcomes after only two years.”
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 objective of the RFY project is to help project participants – and ultimately the broader AASCU membership of 420 state colleges and universities – to implement changes that enhance the first-year student experience and increase student retention and graduation rates, particularly among historically under-served populations. RFY is being funded by generous grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds.
“The state colleges and universities we selected for RFY represent a broad swath of the institutional landscape and exhibit strong leadership and other qualities that are conducive to effecting broad-scale and sustainable change,” said George Mehaffy, vice president for academic leadership and change at AASCU. “Together, with the engagement of all campus stakeholders – from students to academic leadership – we will strive to transform the first-year student experience and ensure student success,” he added.
CSUDH Has Already Begun Re-imagining the First-Year Experience
Seeking to increase retention and graduation rate, in 2014 CSUDH began integrating and institutionalizing evidenced-based practices that have been proven nationally to increase student learning, persistence and overall success. A strong focus was placed on enhancing the freshmen experience through expansion of a pre-freshman year Summer Bridge program to help students with the transition from high school to college, required orientation, Freshmen Convocation, academic year seminars taught by tenure/tenure-track professors that connect freshmen to core academic fields of study and research, comprehensive advising, and peer mentoring and supplemental instruction.
Other measures included technological upgrades to classes and redesigning bottleneck courses to reflect best practices in instruction and student learning, hiring more tenure/tenure-track professors, expanded faculty development and increased class offerings, and strengthening the college pipeline through partnerships with high schools and community colleges.
The results are promising, with the university experiencing its highest retention rates in 22 years (entering freshmen return rate is at 81.6 percent and transfer retention is at 85 percent). Additionally, CSUDH is on track for an 11.2 percent increase in graduation rates in just three years.
As part of AASCU’s RFY project, a team from CSUDH will share its successes and aim to implement other proven, innovative strategies and programs, adapting them to the campus’s unique environment and needs. The initial CSUDH team includes Junn, Vice President of Student Affairs William Franklin, Associate Vice President for Student Success Paz Oliverez, Interim Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Gitanjali Kaul, and Interim Associate Vice President for Advising Bridget Driscoll. Faculty, students and Student Affairs staff will be brought on as members as the initiative progresses.
CSUDH also will participate in a learning community along with the 43 other state colleges and universities selected for RFY. The learning community will enable RFY participants to attend national conferences and educational webinars, receive one-on-one mentoring, access online tools and resources, and share ideas, successful strategies and lessons learned with each other.
“We are excited to join with other universities in the CSU and nationally on this groundbreaking collaboration,” said William Franklin, CSUDH vice president of student affairs. “While the focus is on eradicating critical barriers in the first-year and being intentional about our institutional practices, the real purpose is to help every student who enrolls at CSU Dominguez Hills graduate and achieve their goals.”
AASCU kicks off the RFY initiative at its 2016 Academic Affairs Winter Meeting today (Feb. 4) through Feb 6 in Austin, Tex.
For a list of the 44 RFY member institutions, visit here.