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Article: Program Connects First-Year Students and Their Families to the College Community



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Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
Outdoor Adventure Program Retains New
01 Outdoor Adventure
Program Retains New Students
An educational outdoor program at
Elon University becomes the focus of a
study to determine if outdoor adventure
programs lead to increased retention.
03 e Big Picture
A column by Joe Cuseo
Creating Alliances Between
Academic and Student Aairs:
The Human Dimension
The nal installment in a series of three essays
focuses on promoting collaboration between
faculty and student development professionals
by cultivating positive interpersonal
interactions and working relationships.
06 Program Connects First-
Year Students and Their Families
to the College Community
An early communications program for rst-year
students emphasizes personal interaction
between faculty/sta and students/families,
while focusing on academic issues and a
connection to the college community.
09 First-Year Experience
Course Improves Students’
Financial Literacy
Lakeland College evaluates the eectiveness
of teaching basic nancial-literacy concepts
to students enrolled in a rst-year seminar.
12 Wright State University
Expands Service-Learning
in the First Year
Expanding service- learning opportunities
for students throughout the academic
year helps reinforce the objectives of
a rst-year experience program.
15 What’s Happening at
the National Resource Center
which at that time had a new campus
facility. It was also expected to help
first-year students make the transition
to university life (Waters, personal
communication, July 9, 2008). In
2006, we initiated our own study at
Elon to determine if first-year summer
experiences are conducive to increas-
ing the rate of institutional retention
of university students.
Research suggests that atten-
dance and participation in
outdoor experiential adventure
programs may increase the retention
rate in the student population. Data
generated in a study by Gass (1987)
suggest that transition programs, and
especially those using an adventure-
based model, lead to better retention
than traditional types of orientation
programs. Elon University is a small
private school located in the South-
east. e university’s Adventures
in Leadership (AIL), an outdoor expe-
riential program held each summer,
was launched in 1983 primarily to
introduce new students to innova-
tive leadership and service programs
and to promote campus recreation,
Carol A. Smith
Associate Director, NC Teaching Fellows Program
Elon University
See OUTDOOR, p. 2
AIL participants enjoy a panoramic view.
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
Elon University’s Adventures in
Leadership Program is a week-long
program for incoming first-year
students, designed to aid in develop-
ing leadership skills and a greater
understanding of community, while
promoting teamwork and build-
ing friendships. e program helps
students learn more about themselves
in the natural world and facilitates
the transition into their first year of
college. e program is led by stu-
dents, with two staff and/or faculty
in support roles. e lead facilitator is
a student with previous AIL experi-
ence; other facilitators typically are
also former participants. ere are
two student facilitators per group
of 12 participants. While outdoor
activities such as hiking and rock
climbing form the main portion of the
AIL program, the closing ceremony
consists of a meal, a multi-media
presentation, and a time for sharing of
the experience. e six-day itinerary
Day One: Arrival and check-in at
university; introductory activities;
setting up tents
Day Two: Low ropes challenge
course; departing for base camp;
setting up camp
Day ree: Rock climbing and rap-
pelling and hiking
Days Four and Five: One night and
two days on the river
Day Six: Departing for university;
closing ceremony/banquet with
families; departure
At spring orientation, AIL is
offered to all incoming students as an
optional component within first-year
programs. e 2006 cohort consisted
of 55 students (31 males and 24
females), who were the sample for our
study. During the next year’s summer,
the appropriate offices on campus
were contacted to determine if the
previous year’s AIL participants had
continued to pursue their degrees, as
indicated through registration for fall
semester. If any former AIL partici-
pants had withdrawn from school, the
appropriate office was contacted to
determine what reasons were given as
to why the students had left.
While the overall retention rates
for all students at Elon was a high
90%, the rate of overall retention for
the AIL participants was 94.5%; raw
data and percentages are shown in
Table 1. ese data were obtained
through review of Common Data
Sets on Enrollment and Persistence,
which identify students who contin-
ued their enrollment into their second
year, and is found through the Office
of Institutional Research. Phone calls
to relevant offices on campus enabled
the investigator to determine if the
subjects were in fact still registered for
classes held during the fall semester of
their sophomore year.
OutdOOr Cont. from p. 1
See OUTDOOR, p. 14
A secured AIL participant climbs the face of a boulder.
Table 1
Overall Retention at Targeted University of the First-Year Class
Fall 2006 First-Year
Ye ar
All first-year
N = 1,283
males = 543
females = 740
90.0% 89.3% 90.5%
n = 55
males = 31
females = 24
94.5% 93.6% 95.8%
n = 1,228
males = 512
females = 716
89.8% 89.0% 90.4%
Note. Data for 2006 First-Year Class and Non-AIL students taken from Common Data Set
(Enrollment and Persistence) Institutional Research, Elon University, October 15, 2006 and
October 15, 2007, respectively. Data for AIL participants received from Academic Advising
Center, Elon University, October, 15, 2007.
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
Creating Alliances Between Academic and
Student Aairs: The Human Dimension
Joe Cuseo
Associate Professor, Psychology; Director, Freshman Seminar
Marymount College, Rancho Palos Verdes, CA
The previous issue of this column
focused on promoting col-
laboration between academic
and student affairs by use of strategies
that involved organizational or struc-
tural change. is column focuses
on promoting collaboration through
social processes designed to cultivate
positive interpersonal interactions and
working relationships between faculty
and student development profession-
als. e article is addressed to student
development professionals because as
a group they historically have shown
great motivation and commitment to
building cross-functional partnerships
and a “seamless” learning experience
for undergraduate students (Blake,
1996; Kuh, 1996). e strategies are
organized into three key categories:
(a) human relations and network-
ing; (b) altruistic acts of courtesy and
goodwill; and (c) personal validation,
recognition, and reward.
Get to know faculty on a person-
al basis. Both Marchese (1995) and
Schroeder (2005) argue one of the
major challenges to developing collab-
orative partnerships between aca-
demic and student affairs is that their
work is segregated into “functional
silos,” which limits the quality and
frequency of interpersonal communi-
cation between members of these two
important divisions. Obviously, there
must be an exchange of interpersonal
contact before collaboration can take
place, and if interpersonal contact is
pleasant and personable, collaboration
is more likely to occur; an example
might be to invite a faculty member,
or a small group of faculty, to lunch.
Show interest in the professional
and scholarly interests of faculty.
Becoming familiar with faculty
members’ areas of expertise and
scholarly interests also allows student
development professionals to identify
faculty whose work may have impli-
cations for the cocurriculum. ese
faculty members could be invited to
engage in collaborative projects, such
as research studies or grant propos-
als, or to make presentations on
their work at student development
meetings or retreats. For example, an
e Big Picture anthropologist or sociologist might
be interested in research that involves
observational or naturalistic studies
of student behavior on campus, the
result of which may enable the Office
of Student Affairs to assess the fre-
quency and forms of student involve-
ment on campus, or the frequency
and nature of students’ interracial
Become familiar with faculty
members’ avocational interests.
Student development professionals
who become familiar with faculty
members’ hobbies or recreational pur-
suits are well positioned to selectively
target and recruit faculty for cocur-
ricular partnerships that relate to the
faculty members’ personal interests.
For example, a professor who is a
cycling enthusiast may be interested
in sponsoring a student cycling club.
Extend a special welcome to
new faculty. Research suggests
that first impressions are power-
ful and may set the tone for future
interactions (Demarais & White,
2004). If a new faculty member has
a positive initial interaction with a
student development professional, it
may have long-lasting impact on the
faculty member’s attitude toward and
involvement with the cocurriculum.
Faculty priorities and habits are often
shaped by their initial experiences
in academe; once these priorities
and habits are established, they may
persist throughout the faculty mem-
ber’s career. I am a living example of
a faculty member whose career path
was altered by a student development
professional who befriended me when
I assumed my first, full-time faculty
position after graduate school. He got
See CUSEO, p. 4
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
Acknowledge faculty for their
contributions to student life. is
can be done informally by sending
faculty members personal thank-you
notes for their participation, or by
supplying them with tickets for free
meals or events on campus. More
formal acknowledgement may be
provided by writing a letter of com-
mendation to the faculty member’s
department chair or academic dean
for inclusion in the faculty member’s
personnel file or professional portfo-
lio, or by recognizing those faculty
who have made particularly signifi-
cant contributions by presenting them
with a “student service award” at
graduation, convocation, or a student
awards ceremony.
Lobby for faculty retention-and-
promotion systems that reward
faculty for their contributions to
the cocurriculum. Some faculty
may be interested in contributing to
student life outside the classroom but
are reluctant to do so because their
involvement will not make a whit
of difference for their professional
advancement and job security. In fact,
faculty who become involved with
student development may do so at the
risk of impeding their own profes-
sional advancement because spending
time with students outside the class-
room subtracts time from professional
responsibilities that “really count” in
the promotion-and-tenure process
(e.g., research). Student development
professionals can help support faculty
and promote their involvement in the
cocurriculum by raising the con-
sciousness of high-level administrators
cocurriculum. is suggestion may be
implemented extensively, yet effi-
ciently, by a division of labor in which
different academic departments are
assigned different student develop-
ment professionals who act as liaisons
or “connection agents,” looking for
opportunities to connect the depart-
ment’s course offerings with cocur-
ricular programs.
Equip faculty with templates or
models that could be used as in-class
exercises or out-of-class course as-
signments to connect their course
with cocurricular programming.
ese templates could be included as
part of a practical, ready-to-use source
book or resource guide constructed
by student development professionals
for faculty. e source book could be
offered to veteran faculty members
under the auspices of faculty develop-
ment, and it may be delivered pro-
actively to new faculty during new-
faculty orientation.
Participate in faculty-sponsored
events. Student development profes-
sionals could attend faculty lecture
series or faculty development work-
shops that have implications for
student learning; they might also
volunteer to visit with, or serve on,
faculty committees and task forces
working on issues that have impli-
cations for student life outside the
classroom. If student development
professionals participate in faculty-
organized activities, faculty may
be more likely to reciprocate and
participate in cocurricular activities
organized by student development
me interested in student life outside
the classroom and persuaded me to
shepherd a first-year experience course
through the curriculum committee
to obtain its approval. He later asked
me to teach the course and help co-
direct it, which I did. Now, more than
a quarter of a century later, I’m still
directing an FYE course and continue
to engage in scholarly pursuits relat-
ing to the first-year experience and
students in transition. With some
conscious forethought, student devel-
opment professionals may be able to
replicate my experience for other new
faculty, increasing the likelihood that
faculty collaboration does not happen
randomly or serendipitously, but
Build an interpersonal founda-
tion for potential alliances by doing
unexpected favors for faculty. For
example, help students form study
groups for their courses, pass along
articles that may be of interest to
faculty, or invite faculty to confer-
ences that address issues relevant to
both faculty and student development
Show interest in courses taught
by faculty and ask them about
cocurricular experiences they think
might augment or reinforce what
they are trying accomplish in the
classroom. is is not only a good
human relations practice; it is also
good educational practice for student
development professionals to learn as
much as possible about the academic
curriculum, so that they may then
forge closer connections with the
CuseO Cont. from p. 3
See CUSEO, p. 5
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
about how rank-and-promotion
policies should reward, not penalize,
faculty for contributing to student life
outside the classroom.
While the earlier essays in this
series underscored the importance of
structures in creating effective col-
laborations, we must recognize that
they are necessary but not sufficient.
Without personal relationships built
through the kinds of social processes
described here, such structures are
merely empty shells.
Blake, E. S. (1996). e yin and yang
of student learning in college.
About Campus, 1(4), 4-9.
Demarais, A., & White, V. (2004).
First impressions: What you don’t
know about how others see you.
New York: Bantam Dell.
Kuh, G. D. (1996). Guiding princi-
ples for creating seamless learning
environments for undergraduates.
Journal of College Student Devel-
opment, 37, 135-138
Marchese, T. (1995). It’s the system,
stupid. Change, 27(3), 4.
Schroeder, C. C. (2005). Collab-
orative partnerships between
academic and student affairs. In
M. L. Upcraft, J. N. Gardner, B.
O. Barefoot, & Associates, Chal-
lenging & supporting the first-year
student: A handbook for improving
the first year of college (pp. 204-
220). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
CuseO Cont. from p. 4
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Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
Huntingdon College has seen
the number of first-generation
college students increase
from about 20% a decade ago to
approximately 40% in the current
year. Research indicates that students
whose parents did not attend college
are more likely than their non-first-
generation counterparts to be less
academically prepared for college and
have more difficulty in acclimating
themselves to college upon matricula-
tion (Choy, 2001;Tym, McMillion,
Barone, & Webster, 2004). In general,
we have found our first-generation
college students to be less academi-
cally prepared for college and to have
more challenges adjusting during the
first semester of college.
To assist first-year students and
their families in adapting to college,
we initiated a First-Year Early Com-
munication Program (FYECP). Our
initial intent was to communicate
early with first-generation college
students and their families, but our
program focused on all first-year
students and families, because others
have noted that efforts to assist first-
generation college students’ and their
families’ adjustment to college have
beneficiary results for all first-year
students (Tym et al., 2004).
Although most admissions coun-
selors communicate with first-year
students from deposit to enrollment,
we believed a faculty/staff approach
would augment admissions and peer
approaches to early communica-
tion by emphasizing the personal
interaction between faculty/staff and
students/families, by focusing early
on academic issues and questions, and
by providing another connection to
the college community. By making
more connections between faculty/
staff and first-year students/families,
we believed students would be more
likely to participate in college activi-
ties, interact with faculty outside the
classroom, succeed in the classroom,
and remain enrolled. Our hypotheses
were that our FYECP would increase
first-year to sophomore retention
rates, family participation in college
activities, student rates of satisfac-
tion with the first year of college, and
student-faculty interaction outside the
First-Year Experience (FYEx)
facilitators included faculty, staff, and
administrators (e.g., the college presi-
dent, dean, and provost) who were
trained in a required two-day work-
shop; approximately 50% of the FYEx
facilitators were full-time teaching
faculty. All facilitators participated
in the three required summer orien-
tation/registration sessions and led
the one semester, First-Year Experi-
ence Seminar, FYEx 101. If faculty
members experienced work overloads
by teaching the one-hour course, they
were compensated with overload pay.
FYEx facilitators kept records
on: (a) all communications involving
first-year students and their families,
(b) attendance of students in the
FYEx 101 seminar course and at
FYEx-sponsored dinners and events,
and (c) the number of family members
who attended Family Weekend and
summer orientation/registration. e
Office of Admission provided evalua-
tions for all summer orientations, and
records of the number of deposited
and withdrawn students each week.
e Office of Institutional Research
and Effectiveness provided data
on first-to-second-semester reten-
tion of first-year students, first-year
to second-year retention data, and
results from end-of-term FYEx 101
surveys for each year of our study.
FYEx facilitators received e-mail
updates with spreadsheet information
on each assigned student and family,
including student name, address,
expected major, pre-professional as-
pirations, athletic status, high school
attended, e-mail addresses of parents
and student, and parent names and
addresses. e FYEx director provid-
ed each FYEx facilitator with a time-
line and sample letters for student/
family communications (see Table 1,
p. 7). FYEx facilitators used letters,
phone calls, e-mails, and graduation/
congratulatory cards to contact stu-
dents and families and kept a log of all
communications to and from students
and families from April 1–December
Each facilitator made four to six
communications per student/family,
from the moment of admission
M. Terry Conkle,
Eric A. Kidwell, and
Maureen K. Murphy
Huntingdon College
Program Connects First-Year Students and
Their Families to the College Community
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
was in operation (91.6% for 2004,
89.5.0% for 2005, and 90.7% for
2006), compared to 86.0% for 2003
when the FYECP was not in effect.
A correlation (r = 0.991863) between
the mean number of FYEx contacts
per student/family and the number
of family members at first-year college
events was also observed. Retention of
first-year students from first to second
semester increased dramatically from
66.5% in 2003 to 90.6%, 90.0%,
and 90.5% in successive years, while
student-reported satisfaction (Likert
scale) with the first semester of college
increased from 2.75 in 2003 to 4.51,
4.43, and 3.21 in successive years.
Results from three years of our
FYECP assessment centered on five
1. A majority of all the com-
munications made between
FYEx facilitators and first-year
students/families from April-
July involved informational
outreach (IO).
2. e number of contacts made
by FYEx facilitators corre-
lated with the total number of
family members who attended
summer orientation sessions
and participated in Family
Weekend. e number of
family members attending
summer orientation more than
doubled from 2003 - 2006,
indicating more family connec-
tions to the college.
3. e percentage of admission
deposits retained from May
While some communications
were assigned more than one code, an
85.6% majority of all communications
with students and families were clas-
sified as informational outreach (IO),
31.4% of the total number of commu-
nications were career-based outreach
(CBO) communications, and a small
percentage (2.9%) concerned aca-
demic support (AS). Post-orientation
surveys completed by first-year
students and their families showed an
average Likert rating of 4.65/5.00 on
the individual student/family-FYEx
facilitator registration meetings at ori-
entation, the highest rated event of all
orientations held during 2004-2006.
We also saw an increase in the per-
centage of deposits retained from May
1-August 15 in the years the FYECP
deposit until orientation. Many
families and students responded with
questions from April-July; each FYEx
facilitator logged more than 70 com-
munications during that time period.
ree levels of communication were
coded on each FYEx communica-
tion log: (a) informational outreach
(IO), as in move-in times for stu-
dents and textbook information; (b)
career-based outreach (CBO), which
included pre-professional internships
and work-study placement; and (c)
academic support (AS), such as the
hours of operation for academic assis-
tance centers. As a final touch, during
orientation family members were
invited to write a letter to their son or
daughter, which was then delivered
via campus mail during the second
week of class.
Table 1
FYECP Communication Timeline
Date Recipient To p i c (s)
1 April-May 1
(upon student
FY student Welcome, introduce FYEx
facilitator and role, information
on summer reading, invitation to
2 April-May 1 FY family
Welcome, introduce FYEx
facilitator, communication issues,
invitation to orientation
3 May 31 FY student Congratulatory graduation card
with handwritten note
4 June 15 FY student/
Orientation reminder, what
to bring, Family Weekend
5 July 15 FY student/
Glad-to-meet-you post-
orientation postcards, booklist
web site, FYEx 101 syllabus link
6 July 31 FY student Looking-forward-to-college
e-mail to student
COmmuniCatiOn Cont. from p. 6
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
Maureen K. Murphy
Professor and Chair
Department of Chemistry & Bio-
Huntingdon College
Montgomery, AL 36106-2148.
and contact the appropriate person
on campus to answer questions.”
Student-reported satisfaction with the
FYEx program during the three years
averaged 4.31 on a Likert scale.
Implications for best practices for
our FYECP include continued early
communication with students and
families, continuation of the inclu-
sion of families in the orientation/
registration process, and implementa-
tion of a second-semester seminar to
sustain weekly contact with the FYEx
facilitator and allow facilitators to
address second-semester academic
issues. Given that many admissions
staff, administrators, and first-year
faculty members have Facebook and
MySpace accounts, we are now also
including these popular online social
networking sites to facilitate even
greater early communication with
first-year students and their families.
Choy, S. P. (2001). Students whose
parents did not go to college:
Postsecondary access, persistence,
and attainment. (NCES 2001-
126). Washington, DC: U.S.
Department of Education,
National Center for Education
Statistics. Retrieved August 6,
2008, from
Tym, C., McMillion, R., Barone,
S., & Webster, J. (2004). First-
generation college students: A
literature review. Austin, TX:
Texas Guaranteed Student Loan
Corporation, Research & Ana-
lytical Service. Retrieved August
6, 2008, from http://www.tgslc.
1-August 15 increased by an
average of 5%, or about 9-10
deposits more per year.
4. First-to-second-semester
retention of first-year students
increased, as did student-
reported satisfaction with the
first semester of college. No
correlation was found between
any aspect of the FYECP and
the overall first-to-second-year
retention rate measured, which
ranged from 66.0-70.0% during
the study.
5. Student-FYEx facilitator in-
teraction outside the classroom
increased. is was particu-
larly evident in the number of
students who attended dinners,
pizza parties, or lunches with
their FYEx facilitator when
compared to these activities
prior to the FYECP.
While we were unable to sepa-
rate data of first-generation college
students from that of other first-year
students in our study, we hope to
do so in the future. e Class of
2008, the first group of students who
participated in the FYECP/FYEx
program, graduated with a 65.0%
four-year graduation rate, which is
significantly higher than the overall
four-year graduation rate of 49.0%
in previous years when the FYECP/
FYEx program was not in place.
Family survey responses to FYEx
assessment questions showed a mean
Likert-scale rating of 4.62 in response
to the statement “Early communica-
tion from the college is helpful,” and
a rating of 4.40 in response to the
statement “It is easy for me to find
COmmuniCatiOn Cont. from p. 7
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transitions into and through higher
The Center, a nonprot organization,
will use proceeds from the newsletter
to defray publication costs, suppor t re-
search, and disseminate information.
The First-Year Experience is a trade-
mark of the University of South Caro-
lina. A license may be granted upon
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First-Year Experience. This license is
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The University of South Carolina does
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ployment opportunities or decisions
for qualied persons on the basis of
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Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
Credit management is a
common problem among
college students. A 2001
report from the U.S. General Ac-
counting Office (GAO) shows that
most college students have credit
cards and use them frequently, with
each student having about three, on
average. A majority pays off their
monthly balances, but about 40%
do not, and the average credit-card
debt among these students is $2,748.
Students participating in the GAO
study generally agreed that they had
not anticipated how difficult it would
be to pay off their debts upon gradua-
tion. According to the College Board,
the average undergraduate student
with loans graduated owing $19,400
in 1998-1999.
To evaluate the effectiveness
of teaching basic financial literacy
concepts, a select number of stu-
dents who had enrolled in a first-year
seminar at Lakeland College were
exposed to a short financial literacy-
training workshop in the fall of 2007.
e workshop, offered to two sections
of the five-section first-year seminar,
was motivated by Lakeland College
internal research that pointed to fi-
nancial problems as a frequent reason
for students withdrawing from their
studies. e training covered four key
topics of financial literacy:
1. Education and earning-
2. Building long-term wealth
3. Saving and investing
4. Credit scores and reports
Presented by a Lakeland economics
professor, the first half of the train-
ing exposed students to a true and
false game of building wealth, where
they learned about the link between
education and earnings, characteris-
tics of wealthy people, the basics of
saving and compound interest, and
fundamentals of investing and risk. In
the second half of the training, led by
a representative from a local consumer
credit counseling service, students
learned specifics about credit scores
and reports and how they impact
their future. To gauge the effective-
ness of the workshop, students com-
pleted an 11-item survey on attitudes
about money management (Nieder-
john & Schug, 2006; Niederjohn,
Schug, & Wood, 2006; Niederjohn
& Wood, 2007). e pre-attitude and
knowledge survey was administered in
class before the training session, and
the post-survey was conducted within
a week of the workshop’s conclusion.
Because the financial literacy work-
shop was offered only to two sections
of the five-section first-year seminar,
students enrolled in the three remain-
ing sections served as a control group.
Table 1 (p. 10) illustrates the
results of the money management
attitude surveys that students com-
pleted before and after their exposure
to the financial literacy training.
Statement responses were measured
on a Likert scale with “1” representing
“Strong Agreement” and “5” repre-
senting “Strong Disagreement.” e
treatment group showed changes in
the expected direction on the posttest
on eight of the 11 survey statements.
Of these eight, five showed a statisti-
cally significant change in the expect-
ed direction. Two of the statements
showed a statistically significant
movement in the opposite direction
expected. e control group showed
only four statements that changed in
the expected direction with two of
those at a statistically significant level.
Some specific observations include:
Students exposed to the train-
ing made statistically signifi-
cant gains on the statements
related to saving and spending
money (statements 1, 2, and
3). After the training, students
were more likely to disagree
with survey statements about
their need to spend money now
or their inability to save in their
current situation. Students in
the control group showed no
significant change in their at-
titudes on these subjects.
On the subject of education
and earnings (statement 4),
both groups moved in the
expected direction recogniz-
ing that more education leads
to higher future incomes;
however, the treatment group
did not show a statistically sig-
nificant change. As can be seen
by the very low mean scores for
this statement, the majority of
M. Scott Niederjohn
Asst. Professor and Director, Lakeland College
Center for Economic Education
First-Year Experience Course Improves
Students’ Financial Literacy
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
students in both groups either
agreed or strongly agreed with
this statement on both the pre-
and post-survey, suggesting that
they came into the experiment
already aware of this link.
On the topics of using loans
and credit (statements 5, 6, and
8), the results were mixed. Both
groups moved in the expected
direction on the statement
related to borrowing being the
smartest thing to do in some
situations; however, neither
group’s change was statistically
significant. Perhaps the most
troubling finding in the study
came with statement 5: After
being exposed to the training,
significantly fewer students
disagreed with the statement
that having five credit cards is
a smart strategy for families.
e control group made gains
in the appropriate direction on
this statement. e finding may
be explained by the emphasis
on credit scores during the
training. For example, stu-
dents learned that in order to
improve their credit score they
need to have and use credit,
and that closing lines of credit
can actually hurt their score.
e treatment group moved
in the expected direction on
the statement about paying off
credit card balances; however,
the result was not statistically
ose who were exposed to
the training showed a dramatic
Table 1
Results of Testing of Attitude Survey Statements
Pre-test mean Post-test mean
Attitude Statement Training Control Training Control
1. I believe it is important to buy the
things I want when I want them.
(1. 0 9)
(1. 0 4)
(1. 0 4)
(1. 0 6)
2. I’d like to start saving money today
but my current situation prevents it.
(1. 25)
(1. 0 8)
3. e thing I enjoy most about
making money is spending money.
(1. 29)
(1.15 )
4. People with more education earn
more money than people with less
(1. 0 8)
(1. 2 2)
5. A smart strategy for financial
success is for families to have five credit
6. ere are times when borrowing
money is the smartest thing to do.
(1. 02)
(1. 23)
7. A family has to have a very high
income in order to have a million
dollars by retirement age.
8. A smart strategy for financial
success is to pay off your monthly
credit card balance.
9. Owning stocks is a riskier form of
investment than owning a government
(0. 83)
(1.15 )
10. People interested in earning a good
income should forget about school and
get a good job.
11. Maintaining a better credit score
is something that is within my power
to do.
Note. Numbers in parentheses are standard deviations.
*p < .05. **p < .01. ***p <.001
FinanCial literaCy Cont. from p. 9
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
adults. Journal of Private Enter-
prise, 22(2), 196-208.
Niederjohn M.S., & Wood, W.
(2007). An evaluation of Risky
Business. Unpublished manu-
U.S. General Accounting Office.
(2001, June). Consumer finance:
College students and credit cards.
Washington, DC: Author.
Scott Niederjohn
Asst. Professor and Director,
Lakeland College Center for
Economic Education
Sheboygan, WI
Phone: (920) 565-1239
on two statements for the group of
control students.
ese results are impressive given
how little time and emphasis was put
into financial literacy in this course.
If the training were expanded beyond
an hour and a half seminar, perhaps
becoming a regular part of the first-
year seminar, better results could be
expected. On two survey statements
the students’ attitudes changed in an
unexpected direction after training;
both of these statements suggest areas
where training can be improved.
is project is scheduled again
for the fall of 2008, and a number of
changes have been made to the format
and curriculum to try to address some
of the problems cited. For example,
more time will be dedicated to finan-
cial literacy by employing a series of
workshops throughout the semester
rather than a single session. Present-
ers will also use the results of this
research to better shape their presen-
tations, curriculum, and pedagogical
style. e goal continues to be to
educate Lakeland College students on
the basics of financial literacy and to
make this workshop a permanent part
of the college’s first-year seminar.
Niederjohn M.S., & Schug, M.
(2006). An evaluation of learning,
earning and investing: A model
program for financial education.
Journal of Private Enterprise,
22(1), 196-208.
Niederjohn, M.S., Schug, M., &
Wood, W. (2006). Your credit
counts challenge: A model
program for financial education
for low and moderate income
change in response to state-
ment 7, while the control group
did not indicate a statistically
significant change.
Statement 9, designed to evalu-
ate students’ understanding of
the risk of various investment
assets, presented a curious
finding. While the training
emphasized the need to invest
in stocks as a long-term invest-
ment due to their impressive
historical return, a statistically
significant decrease in students
exposed to the training agreed
that stocks are riskier invest-
ments than bonds. Perhaps
the training program was the
Lastly, the students exposed to
the training showed a statisti-
cally significant gain in the
belief that maintaining a better
credit score is within their
power. ere was no change on
this statement for the control
is assessment suggests that
a simple financial literacy-training
program can be effective in promot-
ing first-year college students’ under-
standing of money management. A
pre- and post-survey design with a
control group suggests that statisti-
cally significant learning took place
among the 60 students who partici-
pated in this activity. On five of the 11
survey statements, students’ attitudes
about money changed in the desired
direction with statistical significance,
while such a result was only obtained
FinanCial literaCy Cont. from p. 10
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
The Foundations of Excellence
self-study action plan in 2005-
2006 at Wright State Univer-
sity recommended that we expand our
first-year experience program through
the entire academic year. At the time
of the study, we had developed a
strong fall quarter program, but we
needed to continue to provide op-
portunities for student development
and interaction during the winter
and spring quarters. We hoped that
providing service opportunities for
first-year students would augment the
objectives of our first-year experience
program, which include enhancing
students’ academic and social success
in order to provide a foundation for
lifelong learning, personal growth,
professional achievement, service,
and citizenship. Service-learning op-
portunities also assist in the integra-
tion of curricular and cocurricular
learning within our general education
To develop this program, the uni-
versity created two positions: a full-
time director of service-learning, who
is responsible for university-wide ini-
tiatives and for working with faculty
of all disciplines and with upper-level
students; and a part-time coordina-
tor for service-learning and civic
engagement for first-year students,
who works with the nonprofit sector
and community-based organizations
(CBOs), to develop service projects for
first-year students.
e input of faculty, staff, and
student leaders was invaluable in
developing the program framework,
getting support from the campus
community, and engaging students in
meaningful service-learning projects.
At Wright State, the new coordinator
for service-learning and civic engage-
ment asked faculty, student affairs
staff, and students about their vision
for service-learning on campus. e
meetings shed light on what service-
learning projects had been done in the
past by student organizations or indi-
vidual faculty and helped shaped the
future of service-learning at WSU.
Faculty with service-learning ex-
perience were asked to consider what
types of service-learning projects they
had done with students in the past
and with whom they had partnered in
the community. ey also identified
other potential partnerships between
the university and community-based
organizations that might be worth
exploring. Faculty also considered
if past projects had met established
objectives, what changes they might
make, and how service-learning sta
might best support them.
We asked students to identify
what issues they were concerned with,
and what types of projects interested
them. Students also gave thought
to how service-learning staff might
better motivate and prepare them for
service and how student organiza-
tions themselves might get involved in
service-learning projects.
After reviewing other service-
learning programs, Wright State
established two priorities: (a) in-
tegrating service-learning into the
University College first-year seminar
in the fall quarter and (b) offering a
two-credit, elective service-learning
course in the winter and spring
quarters. e use of service-learning
was voluntary for University College
instructors. Allowing instructors to
choose issues to be addressed through
service was a definite incentive, and 37
of 78 instructors used service-learning
during fall quarter. Approximately
680 students participated in service-
learning projects in 2007-2008.
e primary goals for the first-year
seminar are to help students adjust
to college, achieve academic success,
develop and grow personally, and
explore their own career development.
However, we also wanted to use the
course to introduce the concept of
service. Projects developed for the fall
quarter were termed “service-learning
light” and included one-time group
and class projects. Service-learning
light projects give students a taste of
what service-learning is in two- to
three-hour time blocks over a three-
to four-week period. Course projects
are based upon themes drawn from a
common reading book for all first-year
students. is past year, students read
An Inconvenient Truth by Al Gore
and participated in a variety of service
projects, including organizing discus-
sions about global warming with
Edwin B. Mayes
Director, First Year Experience
Yasmeen Khan
Coordinator, Service Learning and Civic
Cathy Sayer
Director of Service Learning
Wright State University
Wright State University Expands Service-
Learning in the First Year
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
environment.” e course evalua-
tions were not as helpful because not
all students who participated in a
service-learning project answered the
related question and some who did
not participate answered the question,
in error.
WSU faculty and staff were
extremely helpful in building the
program by making recommenda-
tions based on past experiences with
service-learning and civic engagement
initiatives. Recommendations were
made in the areas of risk management,
development of ongoing relationships
with local nonprofits, engagement of
instructors and students, structure
of projects appropriate for University
College courses, and the influences of
other universities.
When developing the program,
best practices from other institutions
were helpful in a number of ways.
Forms currently in use were based
upon forms developed by local institu-
tions, including Sinclair Community
College and others across North
America. St. Francis Xavier Univer-
sity and West Virginia University
provided suggestions on developing
the program through phone conversa-
tions. WSU’s Office of Risk Manage-
ment was impressed by the system in
place at the California State Univer-
sity. Finally, an invaluable resource
has been the listserv of the National
Service-Learning Clearinghouse.
Utilizing the existing framework
of our first-year program, we will
likely make two key changes:
1. Expand our instructor training.
Additional training is necessary
in the basics of service-learning,
including guidance on linking
for faculty and/or students, project
coordination assistance, develop-
ment and maintenance of forms, and
suggestions on reflection/evaluation
methods. ese resources proved
valuable for both instructors seasoned
in service-learning as well as those
new to it. For interested instructors,
the new service-learning coordinator
visited first-year seminar classrooms
to explain service-learning and to
present a brief orientation on what to
expect at the service site. Whenever
possible, the training was done with a
representative of the partnering CBO.
We asked students and CBO
participants to complete standardized
evaluation forms to determine what
they thought of their service-learning
experience. Conversations with stu-
dents, faculty, and CBO participants
also helped determine if the projects
succeeded in balancing student learn-
ing goals with community needs, and
some students also submitted papers
reflecting on their experience.
By and large, CBOs were satis-
fied with the collaboration and held a
positive view of Wright State Univer-
sity students. Areas to improve upon
included educating students further
about organizations’ missions and
providing community partners with
more information about the curricu-
lar link.
e most valuable student feed-
back came in the form of written
comments—whether in reflection
papers or on the questionnaire. For
example, students involved in an
energy-saving light bulb exchange
project wrote comments such as, “It
was a great way to introduce energy
saving tips to start fresh in college,”
or “I learned about new light bulbs
and how they were better for our
students from an English-as-a-Second
Language class and teaching children
and adult literacy students about
the environment. Participants also
engaged in service-learning by clean-
ing-up the neighborhood around a
homeless shelter, sorting second-hand
clothing donations, creating folded
Origami cranes for a peace museum,
serving as guides for an event at an
Audubon Center, and facilitating a
campus light bulb exchange.
e elective service-learning
course, UVC 103: Campus-Commu-
nity Connections in the First Year, goes
into greater depth than the service-
learning light course and introduces
students to the community while
preparing them for lifelong learning
and service. e course goals include
educating students on the concepts of
community, citizenship, and service,
while also teaching them to recognize
key social, political, economic, and
cultural forces impacting community.
Students also learned about the role
of nonprofits in community life and
developed skills in oral and written
communication, teamwork, leader-
ship, and diversity awareness.
Once a framework for the program
was in place, the next step involved
contacting CBOs for information
about potential projects. We found
that CBOs were sometimes unclear
about the distinction between service-
learning and volunteerism, so clari-
fication was often warranted. It was
helpful to have a written definition
and an outline, such as a course syl-
labus, to send as a follow-up to phone
conversations with CBOs.
Service-learning staff offered a
wide range of resources: training
serviCe-learning Cont. from p. 12
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
Gass, M. A. (1987, Summer). e
effects of a wilderness orientation
program on college students. e
Journal of Experiential Education,
10(2), 30-33.
Goodman, K., & Pascarella, E. T.
(2006). First-year seminars in-
crease persistence and retention:
A summary of the evidence from
how college affects students. Peer
Review, 8(3), 26-28.
Carol A. Smith
Associate Director, NC Teaching
Fellows Program
Associate Professor, Physical Educa-
tion & Health Program
Elon University
Phone: (336) 278-5872
Retention of first-year students not
part of the Adventures in Leadership
program was equivalent to the reten-
tion rate of the first-year class overall
(89.8%). Participation appeared to
increase retention for male students
(93.6% of male participants were
retained compared to 89.0% for non-
participants). e difference between
participation and nonparticipation
was not as great for women (95.8%
vs. 94.0%, respectively). e improved
retention rate among participants of
AIL indicates the program could be a
viable method of improving retention
rates from first to second year.
ree students (5.4%) who had
participated in the AIL program
were no longer registered at Elon at
the end of the first year. Reasons for
withdrawal include both personal and
medical issues; that the school was
too small or too far from home were
some of the personal reasons that
students gave for their choice to leave.
Taking a note from Goodman &
Pascarella (2006), it is agreed that
there is no substitute for a longi-
tudinal study. e participants in
this program need to be tracked to
determine if their increased rates of
retention and persistence continue
beyond the first year. Additionally,
other schools that have implemented
an outdoor education-based orienta-
tion program should track and record
their institutional retention rates to
determine if outdoor adventure pro-
grams influence retention.
For more information, please visit:
OutdOOr Cont. from p. 2
the project with the course
goals and facilitation of effec-
tive reflection.
2. Plan more small-scale proj-
ects. We will continue to work
closely with CBOs to ensure
that students are engaged the
entire time at their service site.
In several projects, the CBO
did not need as many students
as originally planned.
As we established new relation-
ships with CBOs and built upon
existing ones, CBOs contacted us
with additional needs. Whenever
possible, the University Director of
Service-Learning will meet these
needs by offering relevant courses or
by matching student organizations
with viable service projects. Beyond
the coming year, we will maintain
ongoing relationships with CBOs and
track students’ engagement through
their college years and beyond. As the
program grows, we hope to see in-
creasing numbers of students engage
in service-learning, thereby reinforc-
ing a culture of service consistent with
the university’s mission.
Edwin B. Mayes
Director, First Year Experience
University College
Wright State University
Dayton, Ohio
Phone: (937) 775-5676
serviCe-learning Cont. from p. 13
Copyright © September 2008 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience® and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina
What’s Happening at the National Resource Center
National Conference on First-Year
October 12 – 14, 2008
San Antonio, TX
To register, visit:
15th National Conference on
Students in Transition
November 8 – 10, 2008
Columbia, SC
Register before October 15, 2008 and
receive 10% off registration fee
To register, visit:
For more information about these
and other National Resource Center
events, please visit our web site www.
What’s Race Got to Do with It? is a short
film that chronicles the journey of a
diverse group of students participat-
ing in a 15-week intergroup dialogue
program at U.C. Berkeley. As the
students share personal stories, debate
hot topics, and confront one another
about the role race plays in their lives,
they make discoveries about their preconceived ideas and assumptions. e film
goes beyond identity politics and celebratory history to help viewers see through
achievement myths and shows the way to create a safe space for an open and
honest exchange, particularly within educational environments. It illuminates
the stark differences that exist between students on the same campus and dem-
onstrates the incremental learning and attitudinal change that can occur over
the course of a sustained dialogue. What’s Race Got to Do With It? can be used
productively with students, faculty, staff, and administrators in programs ranging
from the first-year experience to professional development and institutional invest-
ment policies.
Candice Francis, California Newsreel, E-mail:,
Web:, Phone: 415-284-7800, ext. 308
In spring 2008, the National Re-
source Center conducted a survey of
student success and learning centers.
e purpose of the survey was to
gather information on the nature,
practices, and evaluation of student
success and learning centers. A pre-
liminary summary of the findings of
the survey is available at
“Creating Instruments to Assess
Aspects of the First-Year Experience”
by Dr. Laurie Schreiner was pub-
lished to the FYA-List in mid-August.
To view an archived copy of her essay,
FYA list/
Kathy Wyer
Contributing Editor
Dottie Weigel
Editorial Assistant
Erin Morris
Graphic Designer
Tracy L. Skipper
Editorial Projects Coordinator
Barbara Tobolowsky
Associate Director
Jennifer Keup
Mary Stuart Hunter
Executive Director
e National Resource Center is con-
ducting the second National Survey
on Sophomore-Year Initiatives. e
survey will launch in fall 2008, and a
summary of results will be published
online in 2009.
You can now find the Na-
tional Resource Center on
Facebook. We encourage
you to become a fan of the NRC by
following the link in the left column
of our homepage <>.
Fans receive updates about upcoming
conferences, new research initiatives,
new resources on our web site, and
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