Report of First-Year Commission

The Provost's Commission on the First-Year Experience was started in the summer of 2010 to give focused attention to how we can enrich the experience of students during their first year at College.  Here is the announcement to the College community summarizing the membership and task of the group: 

TO:  Gordon College Faculty and Staff

FROM:  Mark Sargent, Provost

It's that time again:  over the next several hours our first-year students will be settling onto campus.  In many respects, the most important days and weeks of a student's experience are the earliest ones.  How well students adapt to college in the earliest phases of their time at Gordon often determines whether they will persist to graduation.  We need to be sure that we serve them well during this transitional time.  

 I do believe that there are many ways that we can improve the first-year experience for Gordon students. Last Spring Julie Ray did some assessment of these themes and presented her ideas at the Faculty Forum.  I have asked Julie to head a one-year commission on the first-year experience. The group is specifically charged with examining some critical areas of the first-year experience, such as availability of classes, first-year pedagogies, academic advising and mentoring, Orientation, connections with organizations and churches, etc.

The Commission will prepare some recommendations before Thanksgiving for review by the Cabinet, faculty and co-curricular staff.  After the review, implementation of some of the recommendations would begin during the spring term.

Members of the Commission include:

Julie Ray (chair), Associate Dean for First-Year Experience

Kaye Cook, Professor of Psychology

Carol Herrick, Registrar and Assistant Dean

Sharon Ketcham, Assistant Professor of Christian Ministries

Susanne McCarron, Administrative Assistant to the CORE and The Great Conversation programs

Stan Reczek, Assistant Professor of Physics 

Ann Seavey, Director of the Academic Support Center

Laurie Truschel, Director of Student Ministries

Bruce Webb, CORE Coordinator and Professor of Economics

This is critical work, all the more so at a time when our enrollment has dropped and retention is vital. Please assist the Commission if they ask for information or advice.  If you have thoughts about the first-year experience, feel free to share them with Julie.


Provost’s Commission on First-Year Experience

Road Forward:  December 1, 2010

After receiving the initial report of the Commission in late November, the Provost made a presentation at the faculty meeting summarizing the next steps in the project.  Italicized portions indicate the specific tasks and the people and/or groups responsible for those next steps.


1.  Establish Early Response System

Identify indications of “risk”

Clarify and standardize procedures for reporting of students at risk

Identify and implement appropriate strategies for intervention and support

Pilot for Spring 2011, Full program for Fall 2012

Commission on First-Year Experience


2.  Assess Workload Issues for First-Year Students

Work with department chairs, faculty in common Core classes and other typical first-year courses.

Work with CSD, Chapel and others assessing “over commitments” of first-year students

Recommended changes for 2011-2012

Provost, Dean, selected chairs, co-curricular leaders


3.  Enrich Pedagogy

Develop workshops and forums for faculty on current research about teaching, testing, coaching, etc.

Embed more study skills in first-year courses

Make fuller use of peer advisors

Workshops in Summer and Fall 2011

Faculty Development Committee and Commission on First-Year Experience

4.  Assess Curricular Offerings

Develop more Core courses for first and second-year students

Develop more two-credit courses

Evaluate numbering of courses

Adjustments, Recommendations for 2011-2012

Academic Programs Committee, Core Committee


5.  Strengthen Advising

Dilemma:  Some students need more specific, logistical care (i.e., those changing majors, deciding majors, those students with learning disabilities, etc.).  Some faculty members need to have more equitable advising loads and to be freed to do the kind of advising that they are best suited to do (i.e., on career and calling, curricular choices, etc.)  What protocols and structures can better serve both students and faculty?

Report by Summer 2011

Commission on First-Year Experience