Before the First Year Experience (FYE) program came to Rocky Mountain College, Campus Compass was a required course for all freshman. It has been two years since the Campus Compass program was revamped and made into the First Year Experience program.
While FYE is a newer program to Rocky, it still has similarities to Campus Compass. For example, students are still required to participate in service projects that take place during New Student Orientation and learn about the bystander effect. Freshmen also are obligated to attend the Sex and the Law presentation. Like Campus Compass, FYE still works toward the goal of assisting freshmen as they make the transition from high school to college; in addition to familiarizing them with the campus and its resources.
One way FYE differs significantly from the old program, is that it follows a singular theme throughout the whole semester; this semester’s being “self and society.” FYE is primarily taught by English professors while Campus Compass was taught by various RMC faculty and staff.
With only one year behind the program, those on the FYE committee reviewed what did and didn’t work for the program.
“This year we have made it [FYE] more streamlined so that they get federally mandated programming and a welcome to campus,” stated assistant English professor, Precious McKenzie. “Last year students seemed confused by all the options that we gave them. There were too many options to choose from so we have simplified that for this year.”
One of the biggest additions to FYE is the use of student teaching assistants. What makes the use of TAs at Rocky so intriguing is the number of students that attend the institution. Including graduate students, Rocky has just around 1,000 students. Having a TA in a classroom is more common at large, public universities that have over 100 students in one lecture hall.
As Mckenzie explained, “TAs are able to support the freshmen in the classroom, at FYE presentations, and will serve as a contact between the students and the professors. If students are afraid to ask their professor a question, the TAs will be that friendly face they can go to. They could lead discussions or serve as a mentor to new students.” TAs will serve as a tool for freshmen students.
Academic vice president, Stephen Germic, also played a major role in implementing TAs into the FYE program. Germic explained that having student TAs was not modeled after the usual graduate student TA position that many see in large universities. He added that the TA position at Rocky is a work study position, not a job that exempts a student’s tuition. However, this does not mean Rocky’s TAs are unable to facilitate discussions or form a lesson plan if the professor gives them permission to do so.
“The great benefit, I think, is that our first year students get to have role models. They have another student who is at an advanced stage in their academic career. Someone who is demonstrating intellectual engagement and excitement about the learning process,” said Germic.
Germic added, “the great advantage is two-fold. It’s a great advantage for the new students who can have someone to help them understand the material and the culture of the college. It is also a great advantage to the TAs who are able to gain tremendous experience themselves in teaching and managing a college classroom.”