FYE Logo

The Bridge Team is back from a very successful pillage and plunder raid of Orlando! The First Year Experience Conference was amazing: 1800 attendees and some great sessions! I remember my last FYE Annual Conference had 800 attendees—of course, that was in the good old days of the mid-90s…

The conference focused on strategies for improving the success rates for first-year students. Some of the more interesting sessions included

  • Building Bridges between the Curriculum and Co-Curriculum; Promoting Partnerships between Academic and Student Affairs, Joe Cuseo
  • The First Year Matters: But What Matters Most?, John Gardner and Betsy Barefoot
  • Fake It ‘Till They Make It: Helping Students Develop Skills, Julie Voss
  • Fostering Engagement to Increase Retention and Completion, Naveen Seth (Guttman CC)

Our session, Bridging the Divide: Guided Pathways and Curriculum Alignment, drew 38 attendees, all very engaged. In fact, so engaged that we ran out of time! The “Learning Scenarios” role-play was not only fun for us but was also enjoyed by the attendees. They especially appreciated the extensive literature summary that they left with.

We were fortunate to have a half-hour meeting with John Gardner, whose name is synonymous with FYE. He is still very much involved in the FYE Annual Conference and has his own institute in Brevard, NC: The John Gardner Institute for Excellence in Undergraduate Education. Our discussion centered on the role of the Bridge in the national educational arena. We came away with some good suggestions for partnerships.

EPIC hosted a Focus Group Luncheon, which was extremely valuable. The dozen attendees were First Year Advocate award winners from the past 3 years representing 5 community colleges, 4 private four-year colleges, and 3 universities. Attendee comments included:

  • Students often have too many choices and sometimes make bad ones.
  • They have no realistic expectations of what it will take to be successful in college.
  • Students arrive at college with the Blue Ribbon/Gold Star mindset—they think it is just like their lives in K–12: all you have to do is show up.
  • We need to treat students as individuals and meet them where they are.
  • Initiatives like curriculum alignment are very difficult—faculty and staff are at the mercy of politics. Responsibility but no power. So we just keep doing what we are doing…

However, the highlight of the conference for me was Kirsten opening our session with her mouse ears on—with EPIC written on one ear and Bridge on the other. Surprisingly, there were no raised eyebrows and no one got up and walked out. But after all, Orlando is Mouse City…

Next Up: The National Association for Developmental Education (NADE) in mid-March in Anaheim.


Daryl Peterson is a retired Valencia College director and a community college consultant for Bridge the Divide, a division of EPIC.