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1 No. 49 The First-Year Experience Monograph Series No. 49 Exploring the Evidence: Initiatives in the First College Year 2008 Exploring the Evidence: Initiatives in the First College Year Wendy G. Troxel and Marc Cutright, Editors National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, University of South Carolina, 2008

2 Georgia State University Table of Contents Preface... Betsy Barefoot Foreword... Wendy Troxel and Marc Cutright Section 1... Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Georgia State University... Millersville University... Texas A&M Corpus Christi... Section 2... Early Intervention Diagnostic Tools Cuyamaca College... Northern Arizona University... University of South Carolina... Section 3... First-Year Advising Bridgewater State College... Indiana Wesleyan University... Section 4... Linked Learning Communities Slippery Rock University... University of Michigan... Wagner College... Wright State University... Section 5... Organization and Assessment of Multilayered Programs Montclair State University... University of Minnesota... Section 6... Designing and Assessing First-Year Seminars Concordia University... Indiana University Purdue University at Indianapolis... Wilkes University... iii

3 Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Section 7... Problem-based Learning (Discipline-based) United Arab Emirates University... West Virginia University... Section 8... Student-Faculty Interaction Gallaudet University... University of Georgia... Western Illinois University... About the Editors... Index iv

4 Georgia State University Georgia State University Institution Profile Atlanta, GA Public, Four-Year Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Editors Notes A large, research university in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia State University offers students an important opportunity to expand the learning environment. Atlanta-Based Learning connects students classroom experiences with the local community at multiple levels through a variety of lenses. The four anchor components (Learning about Atlanta Settings, Learning from Atlanta Systems, Learning with Atlanta Communities, and Learning by Atlanta Service-Learning) allow faculty and staff to incorporate a wide range of curricular and cocurricular activities while maintaining focused oversight for student engagement. The Institution Georgia State University, located in downtown Atlanta, is a public, four-year institution. It is the second largest university and the only urban research institution in Georgia. Predominately a commuter campus, Georgia State began offering residential options in 1996 after the Olympic Games. Athletes from around the globe lived in the Village, which was later transformed into housing for 2,000 students. With an additional 435 spaces at the Lofts, and 2,000 spaces at the University Commons opening in fall 2007, the university continues to see growth in traditional age first-year students. In fall 2005, Georgia State University had 13,752 full-time undergraduates with 2,211 first-year students and an overall enrollment of 25,945 students. Georgia State, the most diverse institution in the state, enrolls students from every county in Georgia, every state in the nation, and more than 145 countries. Student demographics are 54% White, 28% African American, 11% Asian, 3% Hispanic, and 3% multiracial/other. In terms of gender, Georgia State is 60% female and 40% male. First-generation students, defined as students whose parents do not have a bachelor s degree, constitute about 11.5%. Undergraduates over the age of 25 comprise 22.4%. Description of the Initiative In August 2004, the Office of Undergraduate Studies launched Atlanta-Based Learning. The initiative promotes the university s strategic mission to increase involvement within the downtown community and increase student retention. Atlanta-Based Learning promotes academic and civic engagement within the greater Atlanta community. As a metropolitan, research institution, Georgia State offers the opportunity for students to make connections between academic courses and the urban Atlanta environment by participating in the life of the city around them. While engaged in Campus Atlanta, students link their learning to its urban surroundings. Atlanta-Based Learning charges students to become active learners using Atlanta as a backdrop and encourages them to give back to the community. The program integrates service-learning opportunities and community engagement activities 3

5 Civic Engagement and Service-Learning 4 throughout the academic curriculum and across disciplines. Undergraduate and graduate students can participate individually or as a class in Atlanta-Based Learning along a continuum of engagement encompassing four components: (a) Learning about Atlanta Settings, (b) Learning from Atlanta Systems, (c) Learning with Atlanta Communities, and (d) Learning by Atlanta Service-Learning. The first component, Learning about Atlanta Settings introduces students to Atlanta and its communities through walking tours and observation exercises. Students quickly become familiar with the downtown environment and its relationship to Georgia State. The second component, Learning from Atlanta Systems, provides opportunities to learn further about economics, education, health care, legal, political, and social topics by making structural connections to Atlanta through site visits to urban facilities. For example, students make court visits and write journal reports. Additionally, students make connections between current issues and the city of Atlanta by interviewing system leaders. When students participate in the third component, Learning with Atlanta Communities, they engage with diverse communities through activities such as interviews, action research, fieldwork, or short-term community service with non profit agencies. Finally, the last component of the continuum of engagement, Learning by Atlanta Service-Learning, involves Georgia State students with the greater Atlanta community through long-term service-learning activities connected to learning objectives of a specific course. A full-time academic coordinator, who collaborates with faculty, helping them design and develop initiatives, staffs the Office of Atlanta-Based Learning. This full-time coordinator, who reports to the assistant vice-president for recruitment and retention, is responsible for (a) conducting classroom presentations and reflection exercises, (b) meeting with faculty and academic departments to discuss integration of Atlanta-Based Learning into classes, (c) researching community organizations and Atlanta sites appropriate for a particular academic discipline, (d) meeting with students to assist with site selections, (e) hosting faculty development opportunities and training for using the initiative as engaged learning pedagogy, and (f) providing supplemental readings and resources involving service-learning and civic engagement. The Law and Society Freshman Learning Community, under the direction of Nancy R. Mansfield, is a successful example of integrating Atlanta-Based Learning in the classroom. Faculty teaching linked courses within this learning community chose Affirmative Action in Higher Education and the Workplace as a theme for the semester. Through the GSU 1010: New Student Orientation course, Mansfield linked law/ethics/political theory, rhetoric, writing assignments, community activities, and research with the affirmative action theme. Her students also participated in moot court group activities. By the end of the semester, students critically examined the legal and ethical aspects of segregation, integration, and affirmative action in higher education and the workplace. Linked courses included New Student Orientation, English Composition, Great Questions of Philosophy, American Government, and Math Modeling. Students participated in a walking tour of Georgia State University to become familiar with the campus and the university s role in the Atlanta community. A tour of Georgia State s nationally ranked College of Law was a highlight. To learn from Atlanta systems, students toured the historic Auburn Avenue District, less than a half mile from campus. Students enjoyed lunch at the Auburn Avenue Curb Market, visited the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Visitors Center, Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Dr. King s birth site. Through site visits, students learned about the history of Atlanta and the critical role of Auburn Avenue in the life of Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement. To learn with Atlanta communities, Dr. Mansfield invited local experts to participate in a panel discussion and interviews, sharing their knowledge and experiences with affirmative action. Students researched background information and prepared questions for interviews with a faculty member from the Department of African American Studies, an attorney, and an assistant director

6 Georgia State University of affirmative action from human resources. Finally, students considered service and professional opportunities in the legal field to fulfill their Learning by Atlanta Service-Learning component. At the conclusion of the semester, student groups completed multi-media projects and reflection papers that integrated course content including video footage that incorporated dialogue from the expert interviews and student impressions of diversity and affirmative action, a comparative analysis of newspaper articles on affirmative action in the 1970s and today, and PowerPoint presentations with photos. The impact of the experiential learning became even more apparent as student groups dedicated their presentations to the legacy of Rosa Parks who died during the semester. Participation in academic courses that include an Atlanta-Based Learning component gives students meaningful opportunities to experience community and civic engagement linked to their academic interests or major. In turn, faculty provide varied methods of instruction and opportunities for engaged learning. The continuum of engagement offers a unique framework that allows individual students, or an entire class, to be involved with some or all of the components of Atlanta-Based Learning. Students have many opportunities to participate in various forms of engagement: internships, civic practicums, community service projects, and service-learning activities. Research Design Two learning outcomes, one for faculty who instruct in the Freshmen Learning Communities (FLC) and one for their students, were assessed: (a) whether faculty who included Atlanta- Based Learning activities in their classes found it beneficial to their course and (b) whether or not students felt connected to Georgia State University and the Atlanta community as a result of Atlanta-Based Learning activities in their classes. We assessed each outcome by examining faculty and student participation in Atlanta-Based Learning, the types of activities in the classes according to the continuum of engagement, and what was learned from the experience. Additional issues addressed included whether or not Atlanta-Based Learning affected first-year student leadership, interpersonal skills, faculty and student relationships, and awareness of community issues in the first year. At the beginning of the 2006 spring semester, faculty and students who participated in Atlanta-Based Learning were invited via to complete an online survey to assess their fall 2005 experience. Two separate online surveys were created. Effectiveness indicators and criteria for success for both outcomes were identified. For the first outcome (whether or not faculty who included Atlanta-Based Learning in their classes found it beneficial to their course), indicators of effectiveness included the number of FLCs that included Atlanta-Based Learning in their syllabi, the percentage or number of each Atlanta-Based Learning component included in FLCs, and faculty perceptionzs that Atlanta-Based Learning was a positive addition to their course. Success would be determined when at least 75% of the FLCs in fall 2005 included Atlanta-Based Learning activities in their syllabi, and whether at least two out of the four components of the Atlanta-Based Learning continuum were included in each FLC. Success would finally be determined if 50% of faculty surveyed felt that Atlanta-Based Learning was a positive addition to their course. For our second outcome (students felt connected to Georgia State University and the Atlanta community through Atlanta-Based Learning activities in their classes), indicators of effectiveness included the number of FLC students who felt connected to Georgia State University and the larger community after participating in Atlanta-Based Learning activities in their classes. Success would be determined if at least 50% of students surveyed agree that they feel connected to Georgia State University through Atlanta-Based Learning, and whether at least 50% of students surveyed agreed that they felt connected to the community through Atlanta-Based Learning activities 5

7 Civic Engagement and Service-Learning Findings Results showed that 71% of the FLCs in fall 2005 included Atlanta-Based Learning in their classes. Faculty who responded to the online survey strongly agreed that Atlanta-Based Learning was a positive addition to their course. More than half mentioned that they strongly agreed that Atlanta-Based Learning activities were beneficial to their students, and that they themselves learned something new about the community. Additionally, 62% of the FLCs included at least two components of the continuum. The student survey results showed that of the 93 students who responded to the survey, 44.1% agreed that the Atlanta-Based Learning experience helped them to feel more connected to the community, while 45.7% agreed that it helped them feel connected to Georgia State University. Additionally, students stated that the program enhanced their leadership skills, and they developed knowledge and ideas based on real-world experience. Almost half of the students surveyed also mentioned that activities and corresponding group projects taught them the importance of working in groups, and that they became more comfortable in an environment different from their own. Conclusions Similar to other institutions, the process of intentionally integrating community engagement and service-learning into courses presents many challenges. These challenges include how to involve faculty, how to make Atlanta-Based Learning activities relevant, how to address time and resources, and how to recognize faculty through release time or benefits. Despite these hurdles, institutionalization of the program is improving. The appointment of a full-time academic coordinator to assist faculty provides needed support, and the creation of a faculty associate program devoted to the office will increase outreach across campus. Several improvements have been made since the program s inception. First, the university requires Atlanta-Based Learning activities for all Freshmen Learning Communities. Second, faculty who integrate courses and include the third and fourth component of the continuum in their classes are eligible for a $2,000 stipend awarded through a peer-reviewed application process. Finally, we have found that given the opportunity to understand the Atlanta-Based Learning program and to experience extraordinary examples of work from past classes, faculty will integrate the program into their courses on an ad hoc basis. Faculty members in various academic disciplines are engaging their students in community activities, but may not be addressing them as Atlanta- Based Learning activities. For students, a critical component involves making activities engaging and directly applicable to their academic interest. While some students found their projects meaningful and made the connection between Atlanta-Based Learning issues and their academic work, others completed their projects simply to fulfill their class requirement. Atlanta-Based Learning s continuum of engagement is flexible and relatively easy to implement. To execute a similar program at another institution, participants must recognize and share the commitment to engaged learning. Collaboration across departments and divisions is important, as well. The encouragement of faculty best practices, promotion of success in the classroom, and engagement of students and faculty in the classroom and the community underpin Atlanta-Based Learning. The end result is a successful program that incorporates a variety of teaching and learning methods and that connects the university with its larger community. 6

8 Georgia State University Primary Contributor Jean So Manager of the Welcome Center Former Program Development Officer for Atlanta-Based Learning Georgia State University P.O. Box 3999 Atlanta, GA Phone: Additional Contributors Nancy R. Mansfield Associate Professor of Legal Studies 7

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