Special Edition 2006
Making the Most
of Freshman Year
First-Year Connections (FYC), which is all about helping freshmen make a smooth transition from high school to college, is in the midst of its own transition.
First-Year Connections students Kris Crockett and Krista Darrell with Associate Professor of History Sally Charnow on an organized trip to Washington, D.C.
FYC students have the opportunity to take "Connections Clusters" and "Connections Seminars." In Connections Clusters, students take courses in different disciplines, but they are interrelated and designed to complement each other. These might include "This Great Stage" or "Citizenship and American Democracy." By fulfilling assignments that may satisfy more than one course requirement, students see how different subject areas complement each other.
In Connections Seminars, students work one-on-one with a faculty member on a research project in a specific area of interest. Examples include "Deception and Romance in Shakespeare" and "Astrobiology and the Search for Extraterrestrial Life."
Approximately 650 students participated in FYC during the fall 2005 semester. It is anticipated that this number will exceed 1,000 students in time for the fall 2006 semester. As another measure of FYC's growth, the program will double its Connections Seminar offerings from 20 to 40 and grow its Connections Clusters from 18 to 25 themes.
In addition to directing FYC since 1999, Dr. Terry Godlove is a professor of philosophy and religion at Hofstra, and he also conducts research in those areas. Dr. Godlove was named associate dean of the program in fall 2005.
Asked why he got involved in the FYC initiative, Dr. Godlove replied, "Two things. I was part of a program like this as a student myself and found it a hugely important experience for me. Second, I know clustering is very successful in lots of places, so I felt it was something at least worth trying at Hofstra." There's the vulnerability of new students, both academically and socially. "Academically, college courses are harder than those in high school," he added, "and time management is a huge issue. Socially, it's often sink or swim."
Thinking back to the first FYC he oversaw in 1999, Dr. Godlove said, "The program was very small then, 105 students – 45 in three seminars and 60 students taking three clusters."
Even now, the average class size remains small – well under the 23 student average for typical Hofstra classes. "FYC seminars average 12 to 15 students and clusters average 30 students," he noted.
Professors in the FYC program see their students several times a week. "If a student is absent [from a given class] three times in a row," he said, "Campus Life staff gets in touch with him or her right away," to make sure there is not a serious underlying problem.
Political Science Professor Rosanna Perotti said, "In 2004, 12 of 35 students in my cluster came to me for advisement because they knew me. Without this program, they may not have received the help they needed. That doesn't mean that students no longer have problems," she added, "but it does mean that somebody is more likely to notice problems, in attendance or attention, for example."
Sabrina Stein, Class of 2007, looked back on the FYC program as "an absolutely amazing experience." Recalling "the dramatic transition" from high school, she said, "Having classes that are smaller and connected to each other in a common theme really enabled me to learn more." Having the same group of students in each class "helped my social life," she added... | more |