First Year Experience Update

First-Year Experience:

This was the first semester that FYEX 101, First Year Seminar, was taught.  Because we were structuring this course with the new Core Curriculum competencies (wellness, information literacy, critical thinking, experiential and life-long learning), we invited Dr.  Joe Cuseo, a highly respected and well-known expert in first-year experience to give an all-day workshop for instructors in August. The workshop was well attended and included a variety of resources for teaching the new course, both from Dr. Cuseo and the FYEX office, and was attended by departmental first-year experience instructors and FYEX 101 and PHIL 100 instructors.

Eighteen FYEX 101 classes were offered in the fall 2011 semester with an enrollment of 132 students. Five of our instructors were new to teaching a first-year experience course.  A special section of the FYEX website was created to host instructional resources for all FYEX classes. 

PHIL 100, Introduction to Liberal Arts Study, had eight sections with 104 students and also taught the core competencies created by the General Studies Committee.

There were 13 FYEX 102 Interest Groups, ranging from topics as diverse as “Paranormal U” to “So You Want to be in Pictures”.  There were 135 students enrolled in FYEX 102 and these classes also included the core competencies along with a focus on a particular interest.  A Celebration Party, demonstrating various activities the groups had worked on throughout the semester, was held on November 15th to mark the completion of student’s FYEX 102 experience. 

This fall, peer educators assisted in thirteen Interest Groups and two FYEX 101 classes; we hope to have more Peer Educators in FYEX 101 classes next fall.  Peer Educators add an additional resource to the courses and students appreciate their help and attention.  Peer educators register for FYEX 200 and receive one credit for the course.  This is a great opportunity for students to strengthen their leadership skills and complete elective credit in the process.  For more information on this, please contact Judi McIntyre at x5396.

This semester we offered two Learning Communities: “ In Our Own Words:  Landscapes of the Self,” which included English 101 taught by Dr. Heidi Hanrahan and Psychology 101 taught by Dr. Heidi Dobish, and “The Afternoon Stretch,” which included Philosophy 100 taught by TC Williams and English 100A taught by Jeanette Leadingham.  Data from class assessments for all FYEX classes will be available later this spring and will prove invaluable in determining the course direction for future offerings. Information on GPA and Fall-to-Fall retention of FYEX students is gathered on an annual basis and is posted on the FYEX website:

Debriefing meetings were held in December for all instructors involved with the first-year experience program.  Minutes of FYEX meetings are available on the FYEX website under Instructional Resources.  Instructors exchanged ideas that worked well for them this semester and gave advice on how to improve the courses for next fall.


A convocation ceremony welcoming new first-year students was held on August 19, 2011. Speakers inculded Dr. Carol Plautz, Assistant Professor of Biology; President Suzanne Shipley Shipley; and student body President, Michael Bailey.  The program included musical selections by the Shepherd University Brass Quintet, led by Dr. Scott Hippensteel, Assistant Professor of Music, and was followed by refreshments in the mezzanine.

Common Reading/One Book, One Community Program:

The common reading for the 2011-2012 is This I Believe, the selection which received the highest number of votes from the campus community last year. A community donor provided copies of This I Believe for faculty and staff. Programs this semester included a showing of the film Rudy, and a jazz brunch at the Scarborough Library featuring the student jazz ensemble and free breakfast on the library porch.  Pictures and a description of this event were featured on a NPR’s This I Believe website.

In November, Jay Allison, editor and broadcast journalist spoke at Shepherd, an event which coincided with a themed dinner in the dining hall, book-signings, workshops on writing personal essays, and visits by Allison to various classes. In a subsequent letter, Allison said “I'm really impressed with how thoroughly [Shepherd] has committed to the One Book program.  I've visited a lot of similar efforts and yours stands out.”

This I Believe is a collection of personal essays, and throughout the year we’ve encouraged everyone to write their own essay. Readings by students, faculty, staff, administrators, and community members have been held several times this semester and will continue through the spring semester. The campus radio station, WSHC-89.7 FM, recorded the readings and will air them beginning in January 2012.  These events were also videotaped and are available for checkout from the public services desk in the Scarborough Library.  At the end of the academic year, essays will be compiled and printed in a Shepherd University -This I Believe, 2011-2012 collection.

The Common Reading Student Essay Contest received 79 entries from students writing their own “This I Believe” essay. Winners will be announced in January and a $250 SU Bookstore gift certificate will be awarded to the author of the winning essay.

The Common Reading/One Book, One Community program is a year-long effort.  In the spring there are additional readings, films, and events planned. Check the Common Reading website frequently for updates and announcements: