First Year Experience Fall Update

2010-2011 Common Reading

Events were held throughout the semester in support of the common reading, Survival of the Prettiest, by Dr. Nancy Etcoff.  Free copies of the book were given to nearly 850 first-year students during Advising and Registration in the summer months, and will be given to incoming first-year students who register in January.  Free copies were also given to faculty who planned to use the book in their classes, either as required or additional reading. 

Common Reading events during the fall semester included a showing of the Korean film, 200 Pounds Beauty the first week of the semester. One hundred and fifty people attended the event, which was followed by a post-film discussion led by Dr. Kathleen Corpus.  In September, the four-part film, The Human Face was shown in weekly one-hour segments, while in October, the Theatre Department presented the play, Bad Dates which tied in thematically well with the common reading.  This is the first time that a student play has coincided so well with the Common Reading Program and we hope this can become an annual event.

Also in October, a panel discussion on “The Perspectives of Beauty” was held examining beauty from the disciplinary perspectives of Art, (Rick Bruner), Music (Scott Beard) and Math (Chris Elmer).  David Hostetter moderated the panel and a reception, sponsored by the Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, followed.

A “Prettiest” Poetry Reading, co-sponsored by Sigma Tau Delta, was held at the Blue Moon on 10/26 with approximately 30 people reading and enjoying original poetry and poetry read by members of Sigma Tau Delta, college, and community members.  Dr. Heidi Hanrahan organized the event. 

In November, Dining Services organized a themed dinner to celebrate the common reading, feeding almost 500 attendees such delectable dishes as Cornish game hen in double cranberry sauce, stuffed portabella mushrooms, smoked trout, baked oysters, frog legs, watermelon and avocado salad, fresh squeezed juices, a mousse parfait tower and more. Originally, author Nancy Etcoff was scheduled to speak on campus the night of this dinner but an emergency surgery she had to receive required that we cancel the event. We are in the process of trying to reschedule her lecture during the spring semester. Panelists discussed how the ideas and aesthetics of beauty influence their day-to-day work. Over 100 people attended this popular event, with a post-panel reception sponsored by the Byrd Center for Legislative Studies.

Dr. Kathleen Corpus of the FACS department organized a lecture on “The History of Fashion: Head to Heels” and required students in her “Cultural History of Clothing” class to present a poster show using ideas raised in the book as their theme during finals week.  The Fashion Design class created the posters and many faculty, staff and students viewed the posters and asked the students questions.  Fashion from around the world was featured and approximately 50 posters were shown.

Student essays for the Common Reading Student Essay Contest have been received and a committee of faculty and others will determine the winner ($250 gift certificate to the SU Bookstore) and a second and third prize of popular books.  The prizes will be awarded in January.

Program events planned for spring semester include a lecture by physics professor, Dr. Jeffery Graff, entitled “Deconstructing Rainbows: Aesthetics and Scientific Mindset.”   The author of Survival of the Prettiest, Dr. Nancy Etcoff, has rescheduled her visit and will hold a lecture and book-signing in the Frank Center Auditorium on Monday, March 28 at 7 PM.   A second panel on the “Perspectives of Beauty” from disciplines different from those in the fall semester is planned for April.

Nominations were solicited for next year’s common reading and approximately 50 were received.  The Common Reading Committee met in late November, narrowing the nominations to 21 potential books, which with funding for purchasing read-copies by the Scarborough Library, we will read over Winter Break, then reconvene on January 24 to determine the final five to go on the Shepherd University homepage for universal voting.

The Common Reading webpage continues to a popular way to inform the university community about the program.  Please visit for more details on what is happening in the program.

Philosophy 100 classes

There were six sections of Philosophy 100 for students provisionally admitted to Shepherd in the fall. In addition to these six, a pilot using six sections of first-year Nursing Department students was added to help add information about FYEX led by a department (Blended model) and FYEX led by general instructors (Uniform Model) within the General Studies new framework.  Information on retention and student success will be gathered over time on all students participating in the pilot project.

FYEX Interest Groups  

Eighteen highly-popular Interest Group classes were offered this fall for first-year students.  They ranged from cooking basics to scuba diving, belly-dancing to hiking.  Students form friendships and receive valuable university survival information in the classes while enjoying and exploring an “interest” they share with their peers.  A Celebration Party was held at the end of the 13-week program with group demonstrations, great food, slideshows and a closing speech by Academic Support Director, Emily Gross. Classes are assessed each fall and the information is used in planning future FYEX Programs. Allowing student feedback to influence program content and development is a hallmark of administering these classes.

Peer Educators

There were 19 students enrolled as Peer Educators in FYEX 200 this fall.  They receive copies of the Shepherd University Peer Educator’s Guide to help them in their work with the Interest Groups and Phil 100 students.  They are chosen based on GPA and their desire to help other students, particularly first-year students.  Being a Peer Educator is a unique way to gather leadership experience and the course carries one (1) graded credit.

Learning Communities

Learning Communities uniting English 101 and Political Science, English 101 and Psychology and English 100 (Stretch English) and Philosophy 100 were offered this fall.  Students enrolled in the joint courses forge relationships with other students and the instructors. The Phil 100 teamed with a stretch English class was a pilot to see what possible benefits might be with this new model.

FYEX Taskforce

The taskforce met several times during the semester and offered valuable advice on the common reading, learning communities, interest groups and other FYEX activities.  Minutes from meetings can be found on the CTL website:


First-year students attended the opening ceremony of Convocation at the start of the semester.  President Suzanne Shipley welcomed new students and attending faculty and spoke on the unique attributes of this year’s class.  Dr. Sally Brasher was an inspiring faculty speaker and student body President, Daniel Bascom, welcomed the new students to campus on behalf of the associated student body. A dinner was held following convocation in the Mezzanine of the Butcher Center.  This year music instructor Eric Jones led the assembly in singing the Alma Mater.  The purpose of convocation is to formally welcome students to a community of scholars and express expectations and the privileges they will receive as Shepherd University students.




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