Who We Are.....................................
It has been an exciting time for the First-Year Studies department. The 14-15 academic year showed a growth in enrollment in our seminars, particularly FYS 101 thanks to the commitment from the institution to increase the number of first-year seminars offered to at-risk students. We have made progress on collaborating with our colleagues across the university that have pieces of the first-year experience. I have been fortunate to lead a campus wide discussion (First-Year Success Consortium) with my colleagues on campus since July of 2014. We have made great strides in understanding each others' programs and brainstorming how they might work better together.
Many of the recommended improvements from last years' reports are just now getting underway. We intend to refine these processes and practices and will have more to report on them in the coming year. We greatly appreciate the continued support of the Provost’s Office this year in adding the position of Assistant Director for FYS 101 and Peer Mentors to our ranks. This position will enable us to propel forward the efforts of retention administered through the FYS 101 curriculum.
Meanwhile, we have also expanded the scope of students served by First-Year Studies. I have always maintained that “first-year” was not just a more politically correct pseudonym for “freshmen”. As a result, starting in the 15-16 academic year, we were co-awarded a NODA grant to study a newly piloted transfer version of FYS 101 seminar. This program pairs nicely with our already successful Bridge Program which has also seen a recent change in personnel. Lastly, we also look forward to the collaborative effort toward student success that we can create between programs like Early Alert, our own programs, and those in the campus community. We strive to find ways for every student to be successful at the University of Tennessee. As we look forward to the coming year, we intend to raise the profile of our department on campus with all the various populations we work.
Volunteer Bridge Program.......
FYS 100 & Life of the Mind.......
A Message from the Director
First Year Studies Staff
From left to right: Jason Mastrogiovanni, Director; Stella Bridgeman-Prince, Assistant Director,; Tyler Berlin, Graduate Teaching Assistant, Marcus Glover, Assistant Director, Volunteer Bridge; Matt Hicks, Graduate Teaching Assistant; Alex Schnelle, Graduate Teaching Assistant; LaTisa Bright, Administrative Specialist
The mission of First-Year Studies (FYS) is to ensure a smooth transition to UT and a successful experience for all first-year students. The goal of FYS is to help students transition—personally, socially, and academically—to life at the University of Tennessee. Effectively making these transitions in the first year is crucial to success at UT, graduation, and future achievement.
By participating in the Early Alert program, students will:
Learn skills and strategies for classroom success based on early intervention and academic resources
Identify and utilize campus resources to assist with academic goals and course completion
Value instructional knowledge on skills acquired through academic resources
Positively affects students' success
No. At-Risk Reports
Attentiveness in Class (i.e. distracted, dozing)
Unfamiliarity with UT Policies (indicate policy)
faculty identified early alert reasons
Early Alert Outcomes
In existence since 2013, the Early Alert system is an outreach program designed for early detection and intervention of students exhibiting signs of academic distress. The system utilizes a campus-wide advising, coaching, and tutoring information system (GradesFirst) to allow faculty to report student progress or distress. Reports entered by faculty are available to academic advisors, academic coaches, and students. These reports enable First-Year Studies to collaborate with other academic success departments in determining the best possible success intervention.
In the 2014-2015 academic year, the early alert system requested responses from 63 courses, 281 instructors and 603 sections. Reports are only requested of first-year students in a select number of courses.
Supports early identification & intervention as high impact activities
As faculty, the role they play in student success is central to our efforts as we strive to become a better institution and provide a quality undergraduate experience for our students. Faculty can do a great deal to make the University of Tennessee a better institution by providing feedback on student engagement and performance early in the term. We know that impactful practices can have a positive outcome for all students. Future improvements will consist of the following:
Increase the use of the GradesFirst/Early Alert System
Increase the Early Alert Response Rate
Ensuring the faculty understand the system
Streamlining the process for faculty and staff as it relates to using the system
Expanding data collection and reporting to include students on academic probation
Collaborating with Academic Coaches and Academic Advisors
Extending to 200 level courses with a high DFW rate
Showing appreciation to faculty and staff who make Early Alert a priority
IMPROVEMENTS BASED On ASSESSMENT
Number of Requests
Number of Responses
Number At Risk
FAculty requests and responses
Early Alert Program Description
“How to cite sources is something that you use all the time during college, and FYS 100 explained it in a way that was easy to comprehend.”
“Drinking awareness and how to handle others that have been drinking.”
“Checking Blackboard has become an everyday occurrence in order for me to keep up with my classes and FYS 100 helped me to learn how to navigate it which was helpful.”
“FYS introduced me to many campus resources that I have used throughout the semester.”
“I learned how to engage in a large group discussion about a topic.”
“Financial responsibility, mainly with student loans and credit cards.”
“To get out there and be active in the college life around me and to make the most of it.”
“I learned how to better navigate around campus.”
“The OIT information was helpful. It was nice being able to find the Help Desk." without trouble when I needed it.”
“Sexual assault isn't something to be taken lightly and happens more than I thought.”
“By making a time management chart in FYS 100, I have learned how to use my time wisely.”
“The OIT information was helpful. It was nice being able to find the Help Desk without trouble when I needed it.”
“I have learned what it takes to make it in college, and how hard you must work to be successful in your studies.”
FYS 100 is an online course designed to introduce students to academic life at the University of Tennessee. This course helps students with their transition to the Volunteer Community, where they will become acquainted with important tools and campus resources. The course also helps students develop an awareness of strategies that will help them succeed in the college life and beyond.
FYS 100: Outcomes
What is something you learned in FYS 100 that you have used thus far in your first semester here at UTK?
First Year Studies
Number of Students
“Overall I thought that the FYS 100 course was helpful for me in my transition to college." - Past FYS 100 Student
In order to continue to help prepare our first-year students for academic success within their first-year and beyond at UT, the FYS 100 course must continue to evolve based on student and Faculty/Staff feedback. While there are various modules that will continue to be retained to help students understand various aspects of collegiate life, others must change, as our student’s needs change from year to year. By focusing on research and feedback we can continue to challenge our students to become more integrated within the UT community and to be successful within their first-year and throughout graduation.
After each student has completed their FYS 100 course and participated in various activities during Welcome Week, their last assignment is to complete the FYS 100 Student Survey. The purpose of the survey is to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the FYS 100 course in an effort to make changes as needed for future first-year students. The 2014 cohort had over 60% participation in the survey, allowing First-year Studies to identify the important lessons that students had learned within their FYS 100 course (see table on page 9).
FYS 100: Student Feedback
Discover campus resources available to aid in their success
Develop a self-awareness around choices they can make in the academic, personal, community, and social spheres of college life
Create an academic response to a piece of literature
Analyze and discuss their stance on an academic topic
FYS 100: Overview
First Year Studies
Life of the Mind is the first assignment as a student at the University of Tennessee. This program not only unites the first-year class in an act of scholarship, but also sets the tone for their entire year here at UT, allowing them to develop skills and make connections crucial for graduation and beyond.
Through Life of the Mind, students have the opportunity to use critical thinking skills to analyze the selected work and present opinions on the piece, attend an exciting large-scale event where the author will discuss the chosen book, and have the opportunity to meet the author at a book-signing event.
The Life of the Mind common book selection for the Class of 2018 was Daytripper by Fábio Moon and Gabriel Bá.
FYS 101 equips students with the skills needed to aim for graduation and success in the field of their choosing. It is a one-credit course specifically designed to assist students with personal and academic transition to college life. Students are given the opportunity to connect with their peers, peer mentors, and their seminar instructor. In addition, students will develop the skills to thrive in the classroom and in life beyond the classroom.
FYS 101: Overview
Number of Sections
Number of Students Enrolled
(students per session)
Life of the Mind
Life of the mind Program Description
Note: FYS 101 seminars Fall 2010 and prior are less reliable due to changes in the SIS to Banner.
FYS 101: GOals
Number of FYS 101 Seminars and Students Enrolled
Fall 2014 (N=3317)
I learned something useful to my success as a student in my LOM book discussion.
My LOM discussion leader (faculty/staff member) led an engaging discussion.
My LOM book was a good common reading selection.
Create connections amongst peers, with peer mentors, and the 101 instructor.
Identify resources and strategies that facilitate success in college and beyond, including effective time management skills and engaging with activities that support learning.
Develop effective strategies for major, career, and life planning, including reflection, research, and utilizing academic, social, and personal campus resources.
Strongly Disagree = 1, Strongly Agree = 5.
Enrollment in all risk levels (high to low) increased from 2013-14. In accordance with the intent to increase at-risk enrollment in FYS 101, enrollment of the highest risk population increase by 13 percentage points representing an enrollment of 41% of that at-risk population in FYS 101 (see Table 3). Enrollment in all statistically at-risk populations, 80% or lower probability of being retained, increased by at least 5 percentage points, representing an enrollment of 35% of the total at-risk population.
The FYS 101 Experience: Student Self-Assessed Outcomes
Enrolled in FYS 101
% of Cohort
N Not Retained
Fr-So Retention Rate
Not Enrolled in FYS 101
My FYS 101 course...
..helped me form connections with my FYS 101 instructor.
..helped me form connections with my FYS 101 Peer Mentor.
..helped me form connections with my peers.
Neither Agree nor Disagree
..taught me time management strategies.
..helped me improve my time management skills.
..helped me identify campus resources
..helped me develop a plan to reach graduation in a timely fashion.
..helped me identify possible majors I may be interested in.
..helped me plan for my future career
The overall freshman to sophomore retention rate for the fall 2014 cohort (summer and fall) was 84.6%. At-Risk students enrolled in FYS 101 had a total retention rate higher than their non-enrolled counterparts. The risk indices continue to show a strong picture of how this seminar is making a difference for our students predicted to be most at-risk (see Table 5). Breaking down performance of FYS 101 students by race and ethnicity also proved to illustrate a strong trend of retention for Black and Hispanic students in particular (see Table 6). Lastly, student performance has been disaggregated by Pell/Pledge/Promise status (see Table 7). Students in the greater financial need categories of Promise and Pledge continue to perform at a higher level than their non-enrolled counterparts.
Treat students as if they are full of potential
Give feedback to students
Call students by correct name
Greet students warmly prior to the start of class
Ask positive, open-ended questions designed to elicit students' stories
Give students adequate time to respond to questions
Ask thoughtful, open-ended questions about students' hopes and dreams for the future
Encourage students to develop plans for accomplishing goals
Ask students regularly about their progress
Think critically about individual students' progress before class
Aid students in overcoming obstacles encountered while pursuing goals
Challenge students to achieve greater goals
FYS 101: Enrollment bY Risk
% of F13 Risk
% of F14 Risk
Instructor and Student Perceptions of Appreciative Connectivity
Peer mentors are undergraduate students who assist faculty and staff instructors in a section of FYS 101 for the fall and spring term. These campus leaders serve as role models, advisors, mentors, campus resource experts, and trusted points of contact for FYS 101 students. Peer mentors work collaboratively with other peer mentors, peer mentor coordinators, and instructors while assisting students in solving problems and getting involved on campus.
Peer Mentors Program Description
Given the challenges of classroom scheduling for our seminars, First-Year Studies has issued a proposal in our academic planning document to acquire or create a dedicated classroom for First-Year seminars.
Recognition Program: To aid in developing a strong community of practice amongst our instructors, First-Year Studies will implement a recognition program for our instructors. The rationale behind this program is that instructors will be motivated to demonstrate acumen in their ability to improve their teaching practice. Details will be developed by the Assistant Director for FYS 101 and Peer Mentors.
Observational Rubrics for Appreciative Instruction Pedagogical Framework:
As a second phase of assessment in the Appreciative Instruction pedagogical framework, an observational rubric has been developed to aid instructors in improvement of their teaching practice. Starting in the fall of 2016, a percentage of instructors will be assessed through this rubric. Implementation for this program will fall under the responsibility of the Assistant Director of FYS 101 and Peer Mentors.
Instructors answered about classroom arrangement using the diagrams in Chart 1 for two consecutive questions. The first question asked instructors to identify which type best describe their ideal teaching classroom arrangement for effective teaching in FYS 101. The majority of instructors (N=32) preferred Type 2 (up 11 from 13-14), the circular discussion-based. Only 2 instructors indicated a preference to Type 1 (the same as 13-14), the more traditional lecture-based classroom. The second question asked instructors to use the same chart to identify the classroom arrangement that best described their classroom assignment for the fall 2013 semester. Interestingly, 24 instructors had classrooms best described as Type 1 (up 11 from 13-14). Only 19 instructors (up 1 from 13-14), taught in classrooms that matched their perceptions of an effective classroom environment for teaching FYS 101 (see table below).
Comparison of Instructor's IDEAL and Actual Classroom
Peer Mentors range in their academic journey. Consistent trends suggest that students hope to use this leadership position as a means of gaining a meaningful first leadership experience on campus in either their sophomore or junior years on campus. Also suggested by the data below is that students consistently seek out this opportunity as a means of giving back to the first-year class during their senior year. Peer Mentors consistently come from the college of Arts and Sciences, Business, and Education Health and Human Services. After steadily rising for the past three years, new applicants dropped during the 2015 cycle. That drop, however, was offset by an increase in returner applicants.
Peer Mentor Demographics
"Being a peer mentor has been the most rewarding position I have held at the University! Not only do I get to help first year student through their entire first semester of college, but I am also making connections with faculty and staff!"
-Current Peer Mentor
Future improvements will consist of the following:
Hire an Assistant Director to oversee the development of the peer mentor program.
Increase recruitment efforts of Peer Mentors to continue to increase the number of applicants each year.
Expand the presence of Peer Mentors and the roles that they serve on campus.
Instructors Since 2012
In a survey of students enrolled in FYS 101, students assessed their experience with peer mentors in the seminar. 89% of students agreed or strongly agreed that peer mentors were engaged in class discussions. Also of note were students’ perception that their peer mentor made connections with students (84%) and were concerned about their success (85%).
Assessment of Peer Mentors By Students Enrolled in FYS 101
"Being a peer mentor has made me a better person overall. It allows you to reflect on your own experiences, learn from them, and then help others from your own experiences and mistakes. To make even one student's transition into college is monumental."
-former Peer mentor
My Peer Mentor was engaged in course discussions.
My Peer Mentor made connections with the students in my FYS 101 course.
My Peer Mentor seemed genuinely concerned about the success of each of the students in my FYS 101 course.
My Peer Mentor helped me feel better connected to the UT community.
My Peer Mentor was someone I felt comfortable talking to.
FYS 129 was created in 2007 from the Quality Enhancement Plan, Ready for the World, under the SACs Accreditation in 2005. These seminars offer first-year students a low-risk environment for academic inquiry into the seminar topic. Students are afforded the opportunity to work with experienced faculty who are passionate and knowledgeable about the seminar topic. Little prior background or knowledge is expected of students who enroll, yet all seminars are real inquiries into the methods, components, and substance of a particular subject. In addition to developing meaningful bonds with faculty and peers, 129 seminars provide an intellectually exciting way of transitioning to the university.
Percent of 129 Instructors
First Year Studies
Course as a whole
Instructor's contribution to the course
Instructor's effectiveness in teaching material
Clarity of instructor's voice
Explanations by instructor
Ability to present alternative explanations
Use of examples and illustrations
Quality of questions/problems raised by instructor
Students' confidence in instructor's knowledge
Encouragement given to students' self expression
Answers to students' questions
Availability of extra help when needed
Use of class time
Interest in whether students learned
Amount you learned in the course
Relevance and usefulness of course content
What the Students Say: Course Evaluations
Number of Instructors
(2010 - 2014)
FYS 129 Professoriate RaNK
Average Class Size:
FYS 129: Freshman SEminars
Connect students to tenured and tenure-track faculty earlier in their academic career.
Enhance group communication skills through discussions, small-group work, presentations or debates.
Develop intellectual curiosity and better understand the role of a student in an academic community.
The Student Assessment of Instruction System (SAIS) collects student perception data of the learning experience in FYS 129. Presented to the left are the 2014-15 academic year averages of FYS 129 and University student feedback. All 129 averages are well above university averages.
Academic and Demographic Comparison by Cohort
Average or Frequency (%)
High School GPA
examples of past fys 129 seminars:
The Volunteer Bridge Program is designed to serve as a bridge for students between The University of Tennessee and Pellissippi State Community College, of course, but also to bridge the learning opportunities at both campuses and connect them with student life at UT, creating a living and learning network to support seamless transition. As such, Bridge students live together in one UT residence hall (unless commuting) and take certain courses together to foster engagement and the sense of community that is crucial for a successful first-year experience. Local students have the option to be commuter Bridge students but will enjoy the same support services and opportunities as the non-commuter Bridge students in the Bridge LLC.
"The Bridge Program set me up for success. I found out how to balance school and work and how to use my resources to the fullest extent."
-Former Bridge Student
harry potter and culture
truth, justice and superheroes
How to think like Da Vinci
can a robot have a mind?
Science of Basketball
Free Musical Improvisation
As a result of successful participation in the UT-PSCC Bridge Program, students will:
Engage in a body of coursework to make progress towards their intended UT major and build a strong foundation for future learning.
Develop the academic skills and success strategies necessary for a successful college experience, including study skills, time management, goal-setting, motivation, and more.
Be familiar with key support services at both PSCC and UT and develop strategies for using those services most effectively.
Demonstrate increased self-knowledge and develop a strong identity as a UT student.
Develop skills for networking with organizations, peers, faculty and staff, such that they are engaged in a strong, personalized community to support them through graduation.
Seek opportunities for leadership and personal and academic growth.
Volunteer Bridge Program Description
Implement a Student Outcomes Survey:
A student survey will be implemented to assess short and long-term benefits of enrollment in FYS 129. Short-term questions will be assessed through SAIS immediately following enrolled students’ participation in the course. Long-term outcomes will reside in a Qualtrics survey that will assess previously enrolled students (junior or senior level). The rationale between this distinction is that students may not realize the outcomes of enrollment in FYS 129 until hindsight.
Implement Faculty Recognition-Fellows Program:
Now that more accurate data has been developed to reflect faculty participation in this program, the faculty fellows program will be implemented in the coming year at a Faculty workshop event.
Continued Focus on Enrollment
The loss of the UT LEAD population was a blow to the sustainability of enrollment in this program. Work has already begun, to focus on regaining this partnership with UT LEAD and developing others (Honors, Experience Learning, LLCs) to sustain enrollment for years to come.
Volunteer Bridge Program
Continue training as the coordinator of the Bridge program, to learn as much as possible.
Change the Summer curriculum, eliminating math courses during the summer. Students will only take two courses during the summer (speech and writing).
Invest in Summer Bridge peer counselors who will live with the summer students and work closely with residence services and First Year Studies.
Mandate a Bridge First Year Studies Course for all Bridge students.
Implement block scheduling for Fall and Spring classes at PSCC.
Continue to provide Spring seminars of various topics.
Coordinate a mandatory study hall for the Bridge students.
Achieve a program completion/1st year retention rate above 70%.
Bridge retention by cohort
** 1st Year Retention includes all students who completed the program and enrolled and any students who entered UT through alternate admission.
Average GPA For All Bridge COhorts by Semester
DEVELOPMENTAL REQUIREMENTS BY VOLUNTEER BRIDGE COHORT
Cohort Size (N)
Enrolled After Summer
Enrolled After Fall
1st Year Retention**
2nd Year Retention
3rd Year Retention
4th Year Retention
4 Year Graduation Rate
Facebook: UTK First Year Studies
Youtube: UTK FYS
821 Volunteer Boulevard
Greve Hall, Room 217
Knoxville, TN 37996-3392