University officials reveal details of New First-Year Center

Various shots of UVU campus in the snow, Thursday December 18, 2014, Utah Valley University (Nathaniel Ray Edwards, UVU Marketing)

As a measure to improve the current 37 percent, eight-year graduation rate amongst students, university officials announced the creation of the UVU First-Year Center (FYC) via a mass email sent to all faculty and staff on Friday Jan. 18.

The new student success initiative will be available to all UVU students with 30 credits or less, and is set to soft-launch in the fall of 2019.

The new FYC will have a high ability level staff, including a director, three assistant directors, 21 academic counselors and an administrative assistant. The new director position will be filled through a national search, while the counselor and assistant director positions will be filled through an internal search of existing UVU advisors. While a number of faculty members will assist with the new initiative, officials say there will be no employee layoffs.

As stated in the email, the center will report to both Academic Affairs and Student Affairs via the Associate Vice President of Academic Programs David Connelly, and Associate Vice President of Student Success and Retention Michelle Kearns.

According to a statement given to UVU News, Connelly said that the composition of staff at the FYC will allow for students not as far into their schooling to benefit from advising that typically comes later.

“This is the evolution of our current advising system,” said Connelly. “It’s advising 2.0. UVU’s 80 advisors work tirelessly to help our students succeed, but advising usually happens later on. Center counselors will reach students sooner, when they are more vulnerable to giving up.”

According to the email, 38 percent of students who do not complete a degree drop out within the first year — a value higher than the attrition rate of the remaining years combined.

In comparison, the eight-year graduation rates at Weber State University, Southern Utah University, Utah State University and the University of Utah are 42 percent, 50 percent, 57 percent and 68 percent, respectively — all of which are higher than those at UVU.

Doug Gardner, an associate professor in the Student Leadership and Success Studies department who teaches many freshman students in his classes received the email announcing the center. He says that the FYC shows a continuation of emphasis on student success.  

“The creation of the center shows how UVU, being a young institution, is nimble,” Gardner said. “We are able to move and organize in a way that allows us to meet [students’] needs.”

As other institutions in Utah have found, first-year centers, in connection with various student success initiatives, have proven to be effective in improving the first-year college experience by increasing student access to support services. Through the new center, all new students will be assisted by academic counselors until they have earned 30 UVU credits.

Junior exercise science major Tori Morrell who had recently heard of the new center said that her experience as a freshman could have been better had she known of and utilized the resources available on campus.

“I didn’t use the resources in the beginning—I didn’t really know about them until later on,” Morrell said. “I definitely wish I would have gone to get help with the classes I had struggled in.”

While she eventually went on to receive an associate’s degree, Morrell says that she is confident that incoming freshman students can benefit from the new FYC.

“I still don’t know much about [the center] but I feel like if they have a plan in place then it will be really successful,” said Morrell.

Photo courtesy of UVU Marketing.

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