The EPIC Bridge the Divide team is off to the 35th annual First-Year Experience and Students in Transition Conference in the City That the Mouse Built (Orlando) from Feb 21–23. Once an educator, always an educator, so I ask you to please indulge me as I provide a short history lecture:
The FYE National Resource Center is a recognized leader and clearinghouse for scholarship, policy, and best practice for postsecondary student transitions. The story of its inception is really quite interesting. The Center was founded in the early 1970s at the University of South Carolina, where President Thomas Jones was the head of a campus fractured by student protests and riots. He responded to those events with efforts to transform the way undergraduate students were taught. His approach included a new course called University 101 and two years later the first students enrolled. The Center was born out of the success of that course, which had become an impetus for efforts to improve the experiences of first-year college students.
In 1982, 175 educators from across the country joined John N. Gardner, then the Director of University 101, to meet and plan the first Annual Conference on the Freshman Year Experience for the following year. The conferences led to the official opening of the FYE National Resource Center at the University of South Carolina in 1986. Today the Center has broadened its focus to include other student transitions such as the first to second college year.
I first met John Gardner in 1988 while working with a company called College Survival. We were concentrating more on the success of community colleges and for-profit colleges, while John’s work was more oriented to the 4-year college and university experience. After two years of mistrust and suspicion of motives, an unofficial alliance was formed with the FYE Center. I began attending the annual conference and the Canadian conferences to exhibit, present sessions with student success educators, and promote the efforts of Gardner and his team. The past 25 years have been full of admiration and appreciation for all that John has done for faculty and their students. I will never forget his insistence that the most important student success strategy is establishing a relationship between the incoming student and a faculty or staff member at the college.
While at this month’s conference, we will be presenting a session on Sunday, February 21 entitled Bridging the Divide: Guided Pathways and Curriculum Alignment. On Monday, February 22, we will be hosting a guided pathways focus group luncheon for a dozen former FYE Advocate Award Winners. The conference ends on Tuesday, February 23, so I’m afraid we’ll have to forego Disney World and Universal Studios. Bummer—all work and no play…
The FYE Conference is another major step for Bridge the Divide. We are aligned with the FYE Center’s commitments which include:
- Supporting student transitions into and through higher education to career
- Connecting research and practice
- Creating a supportive and professional inclusive environment
- Collaborating to create intentional and integrative connections between colleagues, organizations, and systems to support student success
Bridge the Divide and the First Year Experience: Eliminating the gaps and redundancies that so often impede student success in the transition from K–12 to (and through) higher education to a career.
Daryl Peterson is a retired Valencia College director and a community college consultant for Bridge the Divide, a division of EPIC, the Educational Policy Improvement Center. For more information on guided pathways and alignment, contact Kirsten Aspengren at firstname.lastname@example.org