John N. Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education

Framingham State University

Institutional Profile

Foundations of Excellence® Cohort:
2007-2008 National Select
Carnegie Classification:
Master’s L
Enrollment:
5,989
Regional Accreditation:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges
Contact Information:
Ben Trapanick, Director, First-Year Programs

btrapanick@framingham.edu
www.framingham.edu

Foundations of Excellence®: A mechanism for developing a strong first-year experience structure
Ben Trapanick, Director, First-Year Programs

As a way of supporting its burgeoning first-year program, Framingham State College, now University, applied for and was accepted as a member of the 2007-2008 cohort of Foundations of Excellence® (FoE) institutions. While several first-year initiatives were already in place at Framingham State at the time of acceptance (e.g., New Student Orientation, a first-year seminar pilot program), there was the desire to enhance the prominence and intentionality of existing and future efforts. Participation in FoE provided an opportunity for members of the Framingham State Community to identify existing strengths and areas for improvement in first-year efforts. It also provided an opportunity to educate the community on best practices related to work with first-year students in order to promote an enhanced first-year experience for students and increased retention rates.

Impact on the Framingham State Community

The FoE initiative began at Framingham State during the Fall of 2008 with the recruitment of over sixty faculty, administrators, staff, and students.  These volunteers agreed to serve on a specific Dimension Committee, based on expertise or personal/professional interest.  Each committee met over the course of several months and created a report recognizing institution efforts in the identified area, as well as recommendations for improvement.  Recommendations from all Dimension Committees were examined and categorized into seven themes:  Advising, Assessment, Communication, Engagement, Learning and Instruction, Organizational Structure, and Professional Development.  Recommendations were rated based on anticipated ease of implementation and length of time to implement.  A detailed report was written that summarized the process, recognized effective efforts, and discussed the recommendations identified to improve the first year. A plan for implementation of the identified recommendations was also included in the report. This report was distributed to all members of the FoE taskforce, senior-level administrators, and the university president. 

“Since the conclusion of the self-study process, a First-Year Advisory Board (FYAB) has been charged with implementing recommendations. This board, consisting of faculty, administrators, and students, also serves as a forum for ongoing discussion of issues related to the first-year experience. Participation in FoE and the resulting recommendations and emphasis on first-year students has led to several high-profile additions to first-year programming."

Since the conclusion of the self-study process, a First-Year Advisory Board (FYAB) has been charged with implementing recommendations. This board, consisting of faculty, administrators, and students, also serves as a forum for ongoing discussion of issues related to the first-year experience. Participation in FoE and the resulting recommendations and emphasis on first-year students has led to several high-profile additions to first-year programming. The first-year seminar transitioned from a pilot project to a requirement for all first-time, full-time students. In addition, a three-day welcome experience was established to assist students in acclimating to the university and introducing them to academic expectations via interactions with faculty members during discussions of a common reading selection. There have also been significant changes in the Organizational Structure theme area. These include:

  • the development of a first-year philosophy statement,
  • the development of learning outcomes for the first-year experience,
  • the creation of a profile of incoming students for distribution to faculty, staff, and peer mentors,
  • a handbook describing offices, programs, and events of particular interest to first-year students,
  • enhanced strategies for informing students of on- and off-campus employment opportunities, and
  • community wide reminders of events and programs geared toward first-year students.

In addition, the expertise of the Office of First-Year Programs and the First-Year Advisory Board is recognized across campus, resulting in a strong collaboration with the University’s Center for Excellence in Learning, Teaching, Scholarship and Service. This collaboration provides multiple professional development opportunities focused on pedagogy, student development, and services. Lastly, support of first-year efforts has strengthened significantly since embarking on the FoE experience.

Participation in the Foundations of Excellence self-study created a framework conducive to the realization of several significant accomplishments in Framingham State University’s work with first-year students. These accomplishments demonstrate the benefit Framingham State received from participation in FoE, both in the immediate self-study process and in the ongoing work to enhance the first-year experience.