Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) is one of 44 universities from around the country participating in a project aimed at ensuring success for historically underrepresented groups, particularly low-income, first generation, and minority students. “Re-Imagining the First Year of College” (RFY) is an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds.
The coalition of 44 member institutions will work together for three calendar years (2016-2018) to develop comprehensive, institutional transformation that redesigns the first year of college and creates sustainable change for student success.
“Winston-Salem State University has a rich history of serving academically promising students who come from under-resourced or historically underrepresented backgrounds,” says WSSU Provost Brenda Allen. “The RFY project is another example of our commitment to providing our students with the tools and resources they need to be successful in college. The first year often poses a barrier to success; through this project we will identify further opportunities to help students achieve their academic goals.”
RFY seeks to inspire redesigned approaches that work effectively for all members of an increasingly diverse, multicultural, undergraduate student body, eliminating the achievement disparities that have plagued American higher education for generations. Ultimately, re-designing this critical first year will allow for broader reform of the undergraduate experience in the future.
The institutions participating in RFY will form a learning community that reviews and shares evidence-based practices, programs, and implementation strategies. The RFY initiative entails a comprehensive, “top-down, bottom-up” approach that engages the whole campus in focusing on four key areas to help first-year students succeed: institutional intentionality, curriculum redesign, changes in faculty and staff roles, and changes in student roles.
“The RFY speaks to the first goal of our 2016-2021 strategic plan, which seeks to extend our liberal education approach beyond the classroom and into co-curricular experiences and living/learning communities,” says Allen. “Through RFY, we will be enhancing the first-year experience in a number of creative ways that are designed to provide opportunities for creative collaboration between students and faculty, foster leadership development, and hone students’ academic skills.”
As a participant, WSSU will receive extensive support through national meetings, expert webinars, individual consultation, and online resources and tools. The project will build a robust collection of integrated strategies, programs and approaches that participating campuses can adapt to improve student success. As the project advances, AASCU will share key findings with the broader higher education community.