Happy Birthday FYE
I can’t believe it. On February 17th, something I started by flying by the seat of my pants back in 1981, with the assistance of one overworked administrative assistant, will become the 31st offering of the Annual Conference on The First-Year Experience. I understand from my successors at the University of South Carolina that the event will draw over 1800 participants. That is a far cry from the 173 pioneers who joined us for the first one in February 1982.
We chose February originally because I thought holding a trial balloon conference would have a better chance of being viable if we held it dead in the middle of a beautiful South Carolina winter—that would guarantee a good showing of “Yankees” who would come down to see if we wore shoes in the winter.
We held the meeting in Columbia, South Carolina, until 2000 when we felt compelled to honor the NAACP national boycott against South Carolina for flying the Confederate battle flag, literally, at the foot of the steps to enter the South Carolina state Legislature. So since 2000 we have been moving the meeting around major US cities.
I have come to increasingly believe that the real “FYE” is in the highest enrollment, high failure rate courses—and that more than all other areas of possible focus, is where we most need to be directing our attention.
But I will soon see what higher education thinks we should be paying attention to this year.
This event is always like Christmas to me of sorts. So many gifts, from so many fine people—albeit educational gifts but still prized greatly.