Kee’Ara Smith, Staff Writer

In the hopes of helping first year students become successful at Georgia Southern, a mandatory course was created called FYE also known as “First Year Experience.”

The course provides outside classroom experiences for students. Within the course, students are asked to go to events on campus and create a “passport” to show proof of their engagement on campus.

Over the years, FYE classes have changed drastically.

According to Dr. Christine Ludowise, Associate Provost in the Student Success & Advising, the switch to primarily faculty instructors is fairly recent, the FYE course was created at different times at the two original institutions.

“On the Statesboro Campus, first- year experience (orientation to the University) has been in place for almost two decades.

It has gone through several revisions during that time. The discussions for the current revision began in July or August of 2018,” said Ludowise.

The class was usually taught by an advisor. However, over time budget- cuts, lack of advisors, professors and low enrollment has caused the class to now be infused with another course the student is already taking. The new curriculum merges the FYE class with an english, history or core-curriculum course.

According to Ludowise, the stipends which previously were paid to those who taught FYE 1220 have been redirected to help fund the faculty and staff equity adjustments.

“Faculty and exempt staff who value teaching FYE 1220 should speak with their chairs and supervisors about how teaching the course could be considered as a meaningful component of their contributions to student success.

As noted by the faculty members on the redesign team, faculty need to have a clear understanding of how teaching FYE 1220 will count in some meaningful way for them,” said Ludowise.

“My FYE class helps with things I should know around campus, like resources.” -Shakerion Ficklin, Freshman

The Provost’s Office has asked the Deans to work with their colleges, departments and faculty to clearly articulate how teaching FYE 1220 and CORE 2000 will count in faculty evaluations and towards their important milestones. These milestones include tenure, promotion, post-tenure, merit-evaluations, etc.

Of the 105 individuals teaching FYE in Fall 2019:

46 are Academic Advisors [44%]

25 are Faculty (6 of 25 are administrative faculty, such as Department Chairs) [24%]

26 are Staff [25%]

8 are Graduate Students [7%]

In Previous Years FY Instructors ratioed:
CY 2013: 133 individuals; 71 faculty [53%], 62 staff [47%]
CY 2014: 139 individuals; 79 faculty [57%], 60 staff [43%]
CY 2015: 137 individuals; 80 faculty [58%], 57 staff [42%]
CY 2016: 133 individuals; 80 faculty [60%], 53 staff [40%]
CY 2017: 119 individuals; 89 faculty [75%], 30 staff [25%]
CY 2018: 131 individuals; 106 faculty [80%], 25 staff [20%]

“Until the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), rules changed in 2016- 2017, academic advisors and other staff members regularly taught the FYE course on the Statesboro Campus. It is my understanding that academic advisors and other staff members also taught the FYE course on the Armstrong Campus, prior to consolidation,” said Ludowise.

During the 2019-2020 school year the Georgia Southern FYE staff decided to include diversity and inclusion talks within the course. Recent events such as the Statesboro campus’ book burning have proved this addition to be unsuccessful.

“I think it did help them to be more involved than they would have been otherwise.” -Dr. Carol Andrews, Former FYE Professor

“My FYE class helps with things I should know around campus, like resources. I learned how to calculate my GPA and look at what classes I need to take in the future. It is pointless in some ways, because all we do is talk about school, which is repetitive because I already know a good bit of stuff pertaining to campus life. I don’t get the hype about the book, because we barely read it; which was a waste of money,” said freshman Shakerion Ficklin.

“I feel like the FYE classes are a nice effort. I understand what the goal is, but the execution is not there. I went to class because I had to. The class had no impact on helping me transition from home to college life,” said junior Kadaja Williams of her FYE experience.

After asking students about FYE classes, the question still remained, “What is the purpose of this course?”

A newly retired Armstrong professor of over 40 years and former FYE professor, Dr. Carol Andrews, also gave her perspective on the program.

“I have never thought it especially useful although I did enjoy the increased interaction with students. I think they considered it a waste of time, especially the class meetings.

The Passport Project was the most positive aspect of the course because it involved students with campus activities and support services. They griped about it, but they produced interesting, often creative, digital portfolios illustrating their experiences.

It was difficult for students who didn’t live on campus to get to some of the activities, but I think it did help them to be more involved than they would have been otherwise,” Andrews said.

“I understand what the goal is, but the execution is not there.” -Kadaja Williams, Junior

It was expressed that there was a drastic change in the curriculum. For this year, instructors resources were built around the following six topics:

Growth Mindset
Information Literacy
Achieving Your Academic Goals

Communication in Our Communities
Diversity and Inclusion
Campus Engagement and Student Success

 
The addition of Diversity and Inclusion raised many red flags. Uncertainty was answered with, “We have provided the tools and the necessary training for our professors to teach about this subject,’’ Georgia Southern University President Dr. Kyle Marrero said.

Marrero later mentioned that this training was not mandatory for professors during an SGA senate meeting.

Recent events within the FYE course has raised many questions but the fact still remains that “several hundred colleges and universities assign a common book to first-year students each year. Many common read programs have existed for 20 to 30 years,” said Ludowise.

“The book choice is made by a committee of faculty and students. Using a committee to choose first- year books may not be the process in the future, but it’s not an uncommon approach,” said Ludowise.

Hopefully these recent events have brought awareness to the administration in how the FYE course will be run in the future.