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Reinhardt One of Select Few Studying How to Improve Freshman Year

Can anyone remember their first few days at college:.excitement, fear, nervousness, acceptance or anxiety? Whatever those first impressions were, many remember their first year as the beginning of some of the best days of their lives. Research has shown that a student's first year shapes their perceptions of a college and will determine if they remain. In short, the first year is crucial because of its impact on student retention.

Reinhardt has been selected as one of only 20 four-year institutions to participate in the Foundations of Excellence (FOE) program this year. This in-depth evaluation of the first-year experience will give Reinhardt faculty and staff a unique opportunity to bolster retention by improving students' lives.

The nine-month FOE program is supported by the Policy Center on the First Year of College and asks volunteers from across the campus to analyze the College's strengths and weaknesses based on nine specific dimensions. These dimensions include the College's philosophy, organization, learning, faculty, students and others.

"This project will give us a chance to build a dynamic program and completely rework our freshman year experience," said Dr. Roger R. Lee, vice president of student affairs. "To be selected for this project, we must have a strong campus commitment to students and readiness to engage in evaluation and improvement. I think this can have very positive outcomes, both in the short- and long-term."

Lee will lead a core group of faculty, staff and students in developing recommendations based on the input they gather. Their report will be submitted to the Policy Center. The Center staff will also provide suggestions.
According to Lee, Reinhardt is in great company. Past FOE participants in Georgia include Kennesaw State University, Georgia Southwestern University and Georgia Southern University.

"The other colleges and universities chosen to participate this year are a great collection of institutions from all across the U.S. It is a truly exceptional group, and we are excited Reinhardt is part of the mix," Lee said.

The FOE program and Policy Center were founded by John N. Gardner, an expert in the first year experience due to his work at the University of South Carolina and their National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. It is headquartered in Brevard, N.C.

"Already this endeavor has created an excitement across campus, especially within our faculty," said Lee. "We are ready to educate ourselves and focus on the experience we provide our freshman."

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