First Year of Studies

Overview

Starting college is a major milestone in a person’s life, a transition that is more than just “going to school.” Although he was not talking about education specifically, Martin Luther King, Jr. perfectly captured the essence of this time when he advised that we: “Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

His words express both the bravery and the vulnerability inherent in beginning any momentous journey. At Notre Dame, our first-year students do not have to take that first step alone.

Since its founding in 1962, the First Year of Studies has helped thousands of first-year undergraduates find their unique calling at the University, where a process of self-exploration, self-discovery, and self-definition is the heart of their experience. Our students are challenged to take a thoughtful approach to their educational path here, thinking deeply about how their skills and talents, their passions and faiths, and their visions for their futures should impact their choice of major.

The First Year of Studies advising faculty are integral partners with students as they meet this challenge, helping to make sense of complex curricular requirements and guiding them in placing those requirements in a personally meaningful perspective. In addition, a variety of programs and services foster intellectual engagement and active learning, ensure academic development, and connect students with the tremendous resources Notre Dame holds.

With his book The Price of Excellence in Universities and Colleges, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.—president emeritus of Notre Dame and the man linked hand-in-hand with King in a photo housed in the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery—did take higher education as his focus. He wrote that it must provide an opportunity for “each individual to acquire the knowledge and understanding necessary to discharge the personal and social responsibilities of life.”

It is in that spirit that the First Year of Studies is dedicated to nurturing the virtues and strengths our students will need to be good people, good scholars, and good leaders for the 21st century.

Since its founding in 1962, the First Year of Studies has helped thousands of first-year undergraduates find their unique calling at the University, where a process of self-exploration, self-discovery, and self-definition is the heart of their experience.

View Strategic Plan News

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News

1. Build on Notre Dame’s remarkable record of success in the advising and mentoring of first-year students.

University Goals Supported

Goal II: Offer an unsurpassed undergraduate education that nurtures the formation of mind, body, and spirit.

Strategies

  1. Articulate and assess student progress toward a specific set of first year advising milestones (learning objectives).
  2. Provide a roadmap (advising syllabus) that enables students to understand and track progress toward first-year milestones as well as their own vocational aspirations.
  3. Make available resources that empower first-year advisors to pursue professional development opportunities and to become active contributors to that branch of the “scholarship of teaching” focused specifically on advising.
  4. Sponsor national colloquia, and produce occasional publications, that identify the First Year of Studies as a thought leader on the subject of the advising and mentoring of high-achieving students.
  5. Encourage FYS faculty to publish research in leading journals and edited collections on advising.

2. Develop, in collaboration with the Division of Student Affairs, a truly distinctive first-year experience that inculcates values specific to the Notre Dame ethos and helps students understand the charism of the Congregation of Holy Cross and its contribution to their formation. Tie this course sequence to a re-conceptualized and rebranded Welcome Weekend for newly matriculating students and their parents.

University Goals Supported

Goal II: Offer an unsurpassed undergraduate education that nurtures the formation of mind, body, and spirit.

Strategies

  1. Benchmark orientation programming and first-year experience courses at selected institutions.
  2. Build cross-divisional collaborative partnerships for the purposes of gathering input from faculty, staff, and students; curriculum design; and course implementation.
  3. Rollout and continuous assessment of the new initiatives over a five-year period.
  4. Brand the new first-year experience sequence in a manner that links it with the educational mission of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

3. Strengthen supplemental learning initiatives that address the needs of high achieving and at-risk first-year student populations.

University Goals Supported

Goal II: Offer an unsurpassed undergraduate education that nurtures the formation of mind, body, and spirit.

Strategies

  1. Enhance programming offered through our Learning Resource Center (LRC) and Program for Academic Excellence (PAE).
  2. Develop a new pilot Academic Consulting Program (ACP).
  3. Explore ways of increasing the outreach and impact of existing LRC, PAE, and ACP programming through strategic linkages with comparable initiatives underway in other academic units.

4. Enhance use of electronic portfolios (ePortfolios) and other digital technologies to measure progress toward first-year and university-wide learning objectives.

University Goals Supported

Goal II: Offer an unsurpassed undergraduate education that nurtures the formation of mind, body, and spirit.

Strategies

  1. Initiate a mandatory electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) initiative for all undergraduate students, beginning in their first-year at the University.
  2. Utilize targeted prompts to encourage student usage of ePortfolios in the first-year advising process and in MFYE.
  3. Develop assessment protocols to assist advisors and students in using ePortfolios as a long-term developmental tool.

5. Strengthen supplemental educational programming to forge closer ties between FYS and our undergraduate degree-granting colleges, with particular attention given to initiatives that enhance instruction in first-year courses and promote deeper reflection on first-year student engagement and pedagogy.

University Goals Supported

Goal II: Offer an unsurpassed undergraduate education that nurtures the formation of mind, body, and spirit.

Strategies

  1. Centralize and brand intellectual enhancement activities under a single umbrella — ND Ignite.
  2. Involve a broad cross-section of faculty in activities (e.g., dinners and informal conversations) with first-year students outside of the traditional classroom.
  3. Create incentives for student participation in community-based learning opportunities.

6. Gather and assess metrics and benchmarking data to maximize the impact and visibility of FYS, as well as to strengthen ties with administrators, faculty, and professional advisors within our actual and aspirant peer cohorts.

University Goals Supported

Goal II: Offer an unsurpassed undergraduate education that nurtures the formation of mind, body, and spirit.

Goal III: Advance human understanding through scholarship, research, and post-baccalaureate programs that seek to heal, unify, and enlighten.

Strategies

  1. Continue to sponsor semi-annual national conferences on the advising of high-achieving undergraduate students.
  2. Create opportunities for the exchange of ideas and productivity data for the assessment of student outcomes internally and within our peer cohort.

7. Continue the sponsorship and development of initiatives that help train the next generation of academic advisors.

University Goals Supported

Goal II: Offer an unsurpassed undergraduate education that nurtures the formation of mind, body, and spirit.

Goal III: Advance human understanding through scholarship, research, and post-baccalaureate programs that seek to heal, unify, and enlighten.

Strategies

  1. Continue funding and administrative support for the Burke, Hofman, and Kolman (BHK) Postdoctoral Teaching Scholar Program.
  2. Chronicle the impact of the program on the professional trajectory of former recipients.
  3. Explore opportunities for endowing the BHK program