New First Year Experience program receives preliminary approval

Sean Ross, News editor

Currently, only 70 percent of first-time Diablo Valley College students return to campus the following year, according to DVC academic counselor Raine Dougan. In order to address this shortfall, preliminary approval has been granted to a proposal to implement a new First Year Experience program, or FYE.

DVC professor of sociology, Andrew Barlow described the proposal as, “wonderful, exciting work.” The program would establish several community-based events, classes, and support systems at DVC; among these are:

  • Summer Bridge
  • Welcome Day
  • FYE Learning Community
  • First Year Seminar
  • Peer Mentoring

A Summer Bridge is a non-credit, two-week intensive summer course for incoming students who have been placed in a basic level math or English course via assessment. At the end of the course, students would get another opportunity to take the assessment test; those that do often place into higher level courses.

Welcome Day, a half day meet and greet event for incoming students to mingle with their peers and faculty, will feature academic workshops, campus tours, and a variety of “community building activities.” DVC held its first Welcome Day in the fall of 2015 to great success; 93 percent of surveyed students found the information provided at the event valuable in preparing them for their first year of college, and 91 percent reported wanting to be more involved in campus events and activities. Going forward, Welcome Day will become an annual event at DVC.

One of the most significant features of the program is the Learning Community. The FYE Learning Community creates a group, of students that have tested into developmental English, who then take a set of classes together; in the case of DVC, the class set would consist of English 118, a general education course, and a one unit First Year Seminar course. These courses are “intentionally integrated,” meaning that they are designed collaboratively by their instructors to have related, inter-connective content. In time, the program aims to be expanded to include sets of English 122 classes.

In the fall of 2016, a pilot of the FYE Learning Community will be launched, with one group on the Pleasant Hill campus and another at the San Ramon campus.

The First Year Seminar is designed as a one-unit class that will cover effective study habits, collegiate expectations, as well as educational opportunities and understanding how to use campus resources. While the course will not yet be transferable, it is hoped that it will become so in the future.

Finally, the proposal recommends the implementation of a peer mentoring program much like those utilized by Umoja, EOPS, and Puente. Peer mentors will ideally have gone through the FYE program themselves, and will be closely involved with their assigned class’ academic lives.

With the implementation of these programs, DVC hopes to increase student retention and close existing achievement gaps between demographics.