Vol 4 No 1 September 2006NSSE and The Pace UniversitySophomore-Experience SurveyPace University has longprovided special programsfor first-year students. Theseefforts seemed successfulas evidenced by a stabilized first-yearretention rate of 76 to 77% for firstyear student cohorts beginning withthe 2000 fall cohort. However, therewere no special initiatives or programsthat addressed the needs of studentsin their sophomore year. This studentpopulation’s retention rate after twoyears dropped by more than 9%. Inthe spring of 2004, a group of morethan 50 faculty, academic administrators, advisors, student affairsprofessionals, and students initiateda collaborative, grass-roots effort toimprove student success and retention by focusing on the sophomoreyear. Through coordinated curricularand co-curricular efforts, this groupsought to extend first-year momentuminto the sophomore year and beyond.The Sophomore-Experience WorkingGroup wanted to develop a special“experience” for sophomores.Pace University DemographicsAdelia WilliamsAssociate Dean and Professor,Dyson College of Arts and SciencesWilliam M. OffuttAssociate Professor of History; Director,Pforzheimer Honors CollegeBarbara PennipedeAssistant Vice President,Planning, Assessment, Researchand Academic BudgetingSue SchmidDirector, Center for Academic Excellence,PLV Campus, Mortola Library,Pace University, Pleasantville, NYTo help identify needs of the sophomore population, a sub-committeewas formed within the SophomoreExperience Working Group to look atthe responses of secondsemester first-year students to the2004 National Survey of StudentEngagement (NSSE). In reviewingNSSE results, the group wished toStudents at Pace University. Courtesy, Pace UniversityPace University is a private, multicampus urban/suburban university of 14,177 students located inNew York City and WestchesterCounty, New York. The undergraduate full-time equivalent is7,585, and the total number ofundergraduate students is 8,928.Pace’s undergraduate population is 35% residential and 65%commuter. Undergraduateenrollment is 60% female and40% male. Of the undergraduate students, 21.7% are over age25. The demographic makeupof the undergraduate population, calculated using the total ofall undergraduate students whoreported ethnicity, is White (nonHispanic) 44%, Asian 10%, Black10%, Hispanic 11%, AmericanIndian/Alaskan Native 0.2%,other 4%, and international 5%.learn more about the students’ relationships with faculty, other students,administrators, and staff. It wasreasoned that the responses of thesefirst-year students might provide someinsight into what ought to be incorporated in a sophomore experience.The sub-committee also readthe monograph, Visible Solutions forInvisible Students (Schreiner & Pattengale, 2000), which addressed issuesand needs of college sophomores. Inparticular, the monograph addressedfactors influencing the sophomoreslump. These factors dovetailed nicelySee PACE, p. Copyright September 2006 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina

Vol 4 No 1 September 2006Students at Pace University.Courtesy, Pace UniversityPACE Cont. from p. with the NSSE questions and results.For example, the NSSE results raisedsome concerns about academic advising, including the need for integrationbetween advising and career planning; the level of academic and socialintegration; and intellectual engagement—all issues that Schreiner andPattengale explored in relation to thesophomore slump.In order to learn more about boththe NSSE responses and the degreeto which Pace sophomores might beexperiencing a sophomore slump, thesub-committee created a SophomoreSurvey. It included Likert-type andopen-ended questions that askedabout students’ expectations andaspirations and how the Universitymight better meet students’ personaland academic goals. Students whotook the NSSE survey in 2003-2004as first-year students were contactedthe following year and invited to takeour in-house Sophomore Survey in2004-2005.The survey was sent to two different sets of sophomores in the fall2004 and spring 2005 semesters.In all, the survey was e-mailed to2,008 students; 367 responded for an18% response rate. There were 219responses from the New York campusand 148 responses from the Westchester campus.Despite the low response rate,important information was gleanedfrom the survey: Relationships with faculty andother students played a criticalrole in how students assessedtheir experiences, academicachievements, and decision tostay at Pace.responses. Focus group questions addressed quality of life issues, academicchallenge, the quality of teaching,relationships with faculty, and interactions with administrative personnel and offices. The findings wereconsistent with previous focus groupsconducted among a broader range ofthe Pace student population: Students were generally pleasedwith the quality of their professors and believed their professors cared about their success. Students cited diversity as oneof the key reasons they chose toattend Pace. Students’ social networksstrongly influenced their decision to remain at Pace. Students were interested inprograms that enhanced theircareer development. Students wanted to feel morepride in their school and wouldlike Pace to take better advantage of its New York andWestchester locations.See PACE, p. Specific bureaucratic procedures for registration, financialaid, and fee payment were asource of frustration for manystudents. Students valued opportunitiesprovided by the diverse studentbody, co-op internships, andstudy abroad.In addition, Sophomore FocusGroups were conducted on eachcampus to further investigate NSSEStudents at Pace University.Courtesy, Pace UniversityCopyright September 2006 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina

Vol 4 No 1 September 2006PACE Cont. from p. Students desired a betterperceived balance betweenfreedom and safety. Because of the high percentageof commuter students, studentswanted a space for “accidentalsocial interaction.” Students were unhappy withinteractions with administrative offices and staff, particularly those offices involved withregistration and billing.The initial Sophomore Survey atPace University had some limitationsin its design. The instruction andrating scale for questions were notalways clear; and in several cases, thewording of individual questions couldbe improved. The Sophomore-Experience Working Group plans to revisethe sophomore survey by refining andadding questions to allow a better assessment of the sophomore experience.This new survey will be pilot testedwith a sample population before fielding. The survey will also be conductedon a cyclical basis so that the workinggroup can gauge how the sophomoreexperience might be changing. Focusgroups may be used to supplement theSophomore Survey in the years that itis not administered.ReferencesSchreiner, L. A., & Pattengale, J.(Eds.). (2000). Visible solutionsfor invisible students: Helpingsophomores succeed (MonographNo. 31). Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, NationalResource Center for The FirstYear Experience and Students inTransition.Reconceptualizing At Risk:A Discussion of FindingsWhen considering theat-risk college student,many images come tomind. For some, at riskconjures the unfocused student, onewho may be clueless about why he orshe is in college. For others, it is thestudent who may have been academically marginal in high school. Notsurprisingly, we seldom, if ever, thinkof the goal-oriented, academically talented student (i.e., those with highlycompetitive high school grade pointaverages) as being at risk.Rosalind Reavesand Laura WoodwardLearning Specialists, Academic SuccessCenter, Wayne State University, Detroit, MIIncreasingly, however, universitiesare contending with a new reality:Students who are high-achieversin high school may not necessarily succeed academically in college.What is more, these students areContactAdelia WilliamsAssociate Dean and ProfessorDyson College of Arts and SciencesPace UniversityPleasantville, NYPhone: (914) 773-3306E-mail: [email protected] Articles in E-SourceSchaller, M. (2005). Supportingsophomores in making the transition to an internally directed life.3(3), 4.Williams, J. (2003). Vocational focussupports students during the“sophomore slump.” 1(2), 1.often overlooked when it comes toacademic support efforts simplybecause they are expected to do well.Interest in this new group of at-riskstudents evolved from observationsat an Academic Success Center in anurban, research, and largely commuter university. The Center servesas a resource to help bridge the gapbetween high school and collegeand aims to increase undergraduateacademic success through a variety ofinterventions.The focus of this study is a selectgroup of very promising studentswho were admitted to the universityas part of a merit-based scholarshipSee AT RISK, p. Copyright September 2006 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina

Vol 4 No 1 September 2006AT RISK Cont. from p. program. The typical student in thisprogram is African American, goaloriented, and high-achieving in termsof their admission grade point average.Upon admission to the university, students receive a full-tuition scholarship,renewable on the condition that theymaintain a minimum grade pointaverage of 2.5.The academic histories of studentswho had received a merit-based scholarship revealed a disturbing trend.Across multiple cohort years, 35%were clearly successful, 28% struggled,and 37% dropped out. Struggling wasdefined as a grade point average below2.5 and/or one or more withdrawalsfrom one or more academic class(es).As these figures suggest, over halfof those identified in their first yearas high-achieving and academicallytalented were not meeting their potential.These findings prompted severalquestions: (a) Why are these highachieving students not performingto their potential? (b) What factorsmight account for this achievementgap? and (c) What interventionsshould be considered to reverse thistrend?In an effort to answer these questions, interviews were conducted withthose scholars who were academicallysuccessful (the 35% defined earlier).There were two factors driving ourdecision to include the academicallysuccessful students over the 28% whowere struggling. We first consideredthe literature on resiliency. This literature suggested we look to those excelling academically as models for newcohorts. Secondly, we were interestedin identifying a pool of peer mentors.Here, too, the literature was helpful.Students faring well (i.e., exhibitingbehaviors conducive to college success)are the best candidates.Each participant was asked torespond to the following: Reflectingback on your first-year experience,discuss areas for which you felt leastprepared/most prepared? An analysis of their responses revealed fivethemes:1. Autonomy. Students neededpractice making decisions ontheir own.2. Navigation. Students neededspecific advice about officesthat serve students.3. Quantity of work. Studentsneeded to be warned to notover-commit themselves interms of work and other obligations until they adjusted.4. Rigor of coursework. Studentsneeded to learn about workshops, free tutoring, andSupplemental Instructioncourses available for difficultclasses and to be prepared toseek help when needed.5. Time/Task management.Courses met less frequentlythan in high school, and therewas more unstructured time.Students needed exposure totime-management and goalsetting strategies to help themstay on course.Further analysis of the responsesof these academically successfulstudents indicated that they were ableto adapt to these academic challengesby (a) setting goals at the beginning ofthe semester and effectively managing their time; (b) joining a studentorganization and becoming involvedin campus life; (c) seeking help fromthe Academic Success Center andother support services; (d) frequentlymeeting with professors and formingstudy groups; and (e) staying motivated by rewarding themselves withshort vacations, such as going somewhere fun for spring break.These findings have severalimplications for higher educationprofessionals. To begin with, indicators of success in high school are notinsurance against attrition in college.As such, we can no longer equateacademic success in high school withacademic success in college. Additionally, we must be mindful whendesigning interventions for this group.Approaches that work for studentsadmitted with academically marginalrecords may not necessarily work withthese more academically talentedstudents. Finally, effective interventions are ones that address issueshigh-achievers have deemed salient,such as autonomy, navigating thecollege environment, quantity/qualityof coursework, and time/task management.An intervention was planned forthe fall semester in order to addressthe issues earlier cohorts suggestedwere the hardest part of adaptingto their new role at our university.It consisted of a welcome programfor new and continuing cohorts andfeatured panel discussions on thefollowing topics: (a) getting involvedin student life; (b) academicSee AT RISK, p. Copyright September 2006 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina

Vol 4 No 1 September 2006AT RISK Cont. from p. programs (e.g., honors), internships,and research opportunities; (c) essential study skills for college success;and (d) mentoring. The interventionwas designed to help students learnabout available university services,encourage them to take advantageof academic services and leadershipopportunities, and warn them aboutthe difficulties they might face. In addition, students were given a calendarand encouraged to use it. As a capstone to the program, scholars fromearlier cohorts offered advice andfielded questions regarding the firstyear experience. The intervention alsoinvolved a post-midterm conversationwith first-year students. Learning specialists contacted students to discussany concerns, thoughts, or questionsthey had regarding their first-semesterexperience.Though all activities were well-received, students found meeting witholder cohorts, the student leadershipand research opportunities panel,and having a mentoring session tobe most useful. As a result, thesecomponents will continue to be a partof any intervention program for thisgroup. Data suggest that studentsrespond better to study skills training during class because concepts andstrategies seem more relevant to them.Thus, the study skills session, thoughconsidered helpful as an orientationprogram, would become part of a fallsemester program.Our evaluation of the programalso suggested a few areas for improvement. For example, sessionscould have been more interactive andhands on. In addition, having an academic advisor present to review fallcourse schedules and a financial aidofficer to answer questions pertainingto student grants would have beenhelpful.In an effort to address these andother concerns, a program coordinator has been employed to offercontinuing support over the courseof the academic year. This person isresponsible for developing the peermentoring initiative and meetingindividually with students. Additionally, future interventions will includeprograms where students are presented with opportunities to practiceautonomy, navigation, and time/taskmanagement, such as scheduling anappointment with a university advisoror devising a personalized time-management system and setting shortterm and long-term goals. Regarding quantity/quality of coursework,programs will include role-playingwith scenarios typical of the firstcollege year, such as “what to do whena course proves overwhelming.” Roleplaying will not only give students ahint of what they can expect in theirfirst year, but it will also provide themwith effective strategies for dealingwith situations they are likely toencounter as first-year students. Interventions are also likely to be effectiveif they occur early, such as during thesenior year of high school or immediately following graduation. Thiswould provide incoming cohorts withsufficient time to make the mentaland emotional adjustments necessaryto be successful.Data are still being analyzed, butthe preliminary findings are quiteencouraging. A full report will beavailable in December 2006.ContactRosalind ReavesLearning SpecialistAcademic Success CenterWayne State UniversityDetroit, MIPhone: (313) 577-4195E-mail: [email protected] gifted students enjoying a discussion group. Courtesy, Wayne State UniversityCopyright September 2006 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina

Vol 4 No 1 September 2006Pooling Our Resources:Developing Student ResearchStrategies in a Learning CommunityFor the past two years, GrandView College has offered alearning community in U.S.history and first-year composition. A research component isa standard objective for each course.As instructors of these courses, wehave both been disappointed with theoutcomes of the research projects inour individual courses. Students didnot participate much, and the finalpapers were superficial and of spottyquality. When we first linked ourcourses, we shared only three writingassignments, including the researchpaper. However, simply sharing aresearch project between compositionand history did not allow students tosee the links between the goals andmethods of each discipline as explicitly as we wanted.Our goals were for students toconnect rhetorical skills and historiccontent, find evidence, practice critical analysis, and realize that scholarlyKevin GannonAssistant Professor of HistoryAmy GettyAssociate Professor of EnglishGrand View College, Des Moines, IAprocess is something that transcendsindividual disciplinary values—and is,therefore, useful to them even if theyare not an English or history major.The design of the research componenthad to take into account that thestudent body at Grand View Collegeis drawn primarily from workingand lower-middle class families, withfirst-generation college students asthe overwhelming majority. Thus, wehave found ourselves having to focusas much on the basic “nuts and bolts”of the research process (e.g., “Thisis what an online card cataloguedoes ”) as on the actual process ofcomposing the research essay.Over the semesters, we haveexpanded the research component.Its current incarnation is somethingwe call the “Research Trail,” whichrequires a semester-long commitmentby students to both the process andproduct of original scholarly research.As opposed to previous terms, wherethe research project was relegatedto the final four weeks, last fall, westarted with an intentional focus onresearch (process and product) by thesecond week of classes. We distributed a research packet (also posted onthe course web page) that containedevery step of our Research Trail:brainstorming, informal proposal,initial library visit, source evaluation(particularly online sources), annotated bibliography, works-citedpage, and an overall discussion of thedrafting process. We also made surethat the research essay was a requiredelement of the students’ final writingportfolio, which we used in lieu ofa traditional in-class final examination. The students’ research paperasked them to place themselves intoSee Learning Community, p. Join us at our fall events!6th Annual Fall Institute for Academic Deans and Department ChairsOctober 8 - 10, 2006, in scenic Hilton Head Island, South Carolina13th National Conference on Students in TransitionNovember 3 - 5, 2006, in St. Louis, MissouriFor more information or to register, visit September 2006 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina

Vol 4 No 1 September 2006LearningCommunity Cont. from p. a period of history we were covering in the history course and writea first-person narrative from theperspective of someone who was nota prominent historical figure (e.g., anordinary soldier, not George Washington; a slave woman, not HarrietTubman). The finished product, then,could look like a diary, a newspapercolumn, a collection of letters—all ofwhich needed to contain the requiredelements of documentation, soundresearch, and good composition skills.A key strength of the ResearchTrail is that it allows students to focusintently on its various assignments asapplied research. The emphasis is notonly on the specific rhetorical exerciseof producing a term paper, but also ondeveloping the skills to make an original contribution to the scholarshipof a discipline. For example, studentswere asked to produce a proposal fortheir project, a standard, rhetoricalexercise for the process of researchwriting. Because their work wasconnected to the history componentof the learning community and theyhad to present a historical perspective, students were compelled to thinkabout purpose and audience, oftenarticulated by this sort of prospectusand one of the many skills needed bywriters in a variety of careers.Also, students were taught standard MLA citation format—alwaysa chore when the assignment seemsto lack wider connections to theirother academic activities. Throughthe Research Trail, though, studentswere able to recognize MLA documentation as a necessary ingredientin the presentation of their historicalargument and as one example of aspectrum of methods across the disciplines for crediting source material.In this manner, our first-year studentssaw MLA formatting—indeed, allprinciples of formal research—asmore immediately relevant to theirexperiences, which does not alwayshappen when research projects areconfined to one class only.Finally, the part of the ResearchTrail that drove home the connectionbetween rhetorical skills and historical content—as well as addressingthe larger goals of critical analysis ofand engagement with evidence—wasthe Internet Source Evaluation. Webegan by asking students to look attwo selected web sites (one scholarly,one dubious) on the Civil War andevaluate them from the perspectiveof a history professor deciding whichone to use in class. This exerciseprompted students to look beyondappearance, form, structure, and “neat”HTML tricks to actually evaluate thesite’s content, bias, and overall scholarly quality. Students then movedon to web sites directly pertaining totheir research projects armed witha greater awareness of the need toengage critically with online material.As a result of their work all along theResearch Trail, our students were ableto produce research papers that weremore thoughtful and scholarly, andthat possessed an analytical depththat had been missing in previousterms with this assignment.Our students reported that theyappreciated the learning community because it not only drove homethe connections between Englishand history as disciplines, but alsoPublications StaffInge Kutt LewisEditorMichael AbelEditorial AssistantAsheley BiceEditorial AssistantErin MorrisGraphic DesignerMey WuWeb MasterTracy L. SkipperEditorial Projects CoordinatorBarbara TobolowskyAssociate DirectorM. Stuart HunterDirectorpresented the world of scholarlyresearch in a meaningful and accessible manner. This experience in turnheightened their sense of academicself-confidence, as they could point toa significant piece of scholarship thatthey had created, developed, and polished over an entire semester. Withthe Research Trail as the frameworkfor our entire learning community,we have discovered not only thatstudent scholarship has markedlyimproved, but also that students areable to make connections between thequality of their research endeavorsSee Learning Community, p. 10Copyright September 2006 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina

Vol 4 No 1 September 2006How Do Peer Programs BenefitStudent Leaders?Despite extensive evidencesupporting the positiveeffect of peer leaders onthe students with whomthey work, we know almost nothingabout the impact of the experienceon the peer leaders themselves asidefrom anecdotal reports. A study wasdesigned to explore the peer-leaderexperience to help fill this knowledgegap. In particular, the study examinedhow peers described their experienceand the usefulness of social interdependence theory in predicting thekind of experience peer leaders have.The study used a qualitative, multisite case study design to examine theexperiences of peer leaders in firstyear seminars at three universities indifferent geographic locations of theUnited States. Data were collectedfrom questionnaire responses from 83peer leaders and from interviews with16 peer leaders and 5 program directors at these institutions. The datawere analyzed to arrive at the themesand categories that characterized thepeer-leader experience at each siteand were used to develop case reports.The individual case analyses werethen compared to identify the themescommon to the experiences of peerleaders across sites.Social interdependence theoryserved as the conceptual frameworkfor the study, influencing the framingof the questionnaire and as a meansfor analyzing the data. Based on thework of Koffka (1935), Lewin (1948,1951), and Deutsch (1949), socialSuzanne HamidDirector, First-Year Programs; Director,Global Perspectives, Lee University,Cleveland, TNinterdependence theory states thatgroups are dynamic units where interdependence exists among memberssharing common goals. Moreover, theway interdependence among goalsis structured determines how groupmembers interact with each other andthus, to a greater extent, predicts theoutcomes (Johnson & Johnson, 1989).Two types of interdependence areposited: (a) positive interdependenceor cooperation, which promotes interactions where individuals supporteach other’s efforts to succeed and (b)negative interdependence or competition, which leads to oppositionalinteraction where individuals focuson increasing their own success whilehindering the efforts of others in thegroup to achieve success. Both typesof interdependence describe the roleof peer leaders in first-year seminars,as co-teachers and interpreters forstudents. Conceptually, then, oneshould be able to describe the impactof the experience on peer leaders bythe way they characterize the type ofinteraction that occurred within theirgroup.Five themes emerged from thedata analysis that were consistentacross all three institutions. Peers described (a) positive interactions withstudents and staff; (b) a belief thatthey helped their students in theircapacity as a peer leader; (c) a desireSee PEERS, p. Peer leading other students as part of a team-building activity. Courtesy, Lee UniversityCopyright September 2006 National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina

Vol 4 No 1 September 2006PEERS Cont. from p. to be liked by their students, whichgenerally was realized; (d) confronting and overcoming obstacles in termsof time management, conflict resolution, and setting boundaries; and (e) apositive impact on their own development in terms of gaining personal,social, and career skills. These themeswere then analyzed, using the socialinterdependence theory.Cooperative interdependencepromotes three broad and interrelatedareas: (a) effort to achieve, (b) positiverelationships, and (c) psychologicaladjustment and social competence(Johnson & Johnson, 1989). Interactions between peer leaders andstudents were characterized bymutual care and assistance, healthycommunication, ability to manageconflict, trust, and respect, suggestingthat peers were engaged in positiveor cooperative interactions withfirst-year students in their seminars.These interactions shaped peer leaders’experiences in terms of the threePeer leaders and faculty members serve as orientation hosts on Welcome Day.Courtesy, Lee Universityoutcomes identified by Johnson andJohnson.Effort to achieve. Johnson andJohnson (1989) contended, “Nomatter how intellectually capableor skilled individuals are, if they donot exert considerable effort andseek to achieve challenging goals,their productivity will be low” (p. 6).Peer leaders at all three institutionsreported expending both physical andpsychological energy to successfullyfulfill their roles. They willingly confronted and overcame these hurdlesby successfully managingtheir time and finding abalance between beinga student and a leader.Moreover, they workedhard at creating caring,healthy relationshipswith their students. Thiswas evident in how theyconducted themselvesduring their tenure as apeer leader and in the numerous relationships thatcontinued after their rolesas a peer leader ended.Positive relationships.Peer leaders working on a Habitat forAccordingto the socialHumanity project. Courtesy, Lee Universityinterdependence theory, committedefforts to achieve tend to engenderpositive relationships and cohesiveness among the group as the memberswork together (Johnson & Johnson,1989). Moreover, cohesiveness in agroup is determined by how wellmembers like each other and howwell conflict is managed (Johnson &Johnson). The peer leaders workedhard to achieve positive relationshipswith their students and with theinstructors. Not only was it important that their students liked them,but the peer leaders also cared deeplyabout their students, were committedto them, and wanted to make a difference in their lives.Psychological adjustment andsocial competence. Another outcomeof positive social interdependenceis “the ability (cognitive capacities,motivational orientations, and socialskills) to develop, maintain, and appropriately modi

Pace University DemograPhics Pace University is a private, multi-campus urban/suburban univer-sity of 14,177 students located in New York City and Westchester County, New York. The under-graduate full-time equivalent is 7,585, and the total number of undergraduate students is 8,928. Pace