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English professor heads CCU's First Year Experience

June 26, 2006

English professor Nelljean Rice has been named director of Coastal Carolina University's First Year Experience, a new mandatory program for the estimated 1,500 freshmen enrolled for this fall.

FYE aims to improve freshmen retention by reducing the number of new students who decide to leave college in the first few weeks, a common problem at institutions of higher learning.

Fifty-five Coastal faculty and staff members are signed up to teach 64 sections of First Year Experience (FYE), also known as University 110. The course is a new core requirement for entering freshmen, who must pass it with a C grade.

"Our purpose is to give them an introductory encounter that will bond them to college and give them a great experience," says Rice. "We really want to make this a transformative exposure for them."

In the class, students will be taught to develop creative and critical thinking skills, information literacy, the importance of community service, and the personal and social skills they will need to be successful at college.

FYE begins the semester with the summer assignment of the communal "Big Read," which this year is Mark Haddon's bestselling tale of a teenage, autistic boy who learns to navigate through his very difficult life, solve a mystery and deal with his separated parents. "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time" was chosen, Rice says, because it deals with diversity. The main character is different from everyone who lives around him, but he adjusts to make his life work for him. His personal struggle is one that many freshmen, overwhelmed and bewildered by their new transitional situation, can identify with.

Students will be exposed to such topics as creative and critical thinking strategies, case study review, active learning methods, how to conduct research at the library, what to do if they get into trouble with alcohol or drugs, which classes to sign up for in what year, how to get involved on campus, how to eat healthy and avoid the dreaded "freshman 15" pounds of weight gain from eating starchy foods, and more.

Coastal's new Learning Assistance Center, which incorporates the Writing Center, Foreign Language Center, Mathematics Center and Supplemental Instruction, will be available to help students in those areas of specific need. As part of FYE, beginning with the fall 2006 semester, Coastal will adopt a new method of academic advisement for first-time students. Eight full-time professional advisers, many of whom will also teach FYE seminars, will counsel freshmen on their academic course work, with assistance from 20 upper class student peer mentors. The new advising system will free up faculty members to concentrate on teaching and research.

Another change for incoming students this year will be Orientation II, which begins on freshman move-in day in the fall and continues through the first day of class each semester. And a new Volunteer Services Center is being developed by Pat Singleton-Young to coordinate and provide support for Coastal's many volunteer initiatives on campus.