Tag: first-year seminars

Slideshow: Baird Creek lessons include ecology, involvement

Freshman conservation biology seminar courseFirst-year students are being given the opportunity to “get their hands dirty and learn about ecology and conservation at the same time,” thanks to a $5,990 grant from the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation.

The grant, issued to Associate Prof. Mathew Dornbush of the Natural and Applied Sciences academic unit at UW-Green Bay, will support Dornbush’s first-year seminar course titled, “Let’s Go Native: Conservation Biology in Practice.”

The project is part of a larger Urban Conservation Capacity grant to the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

“The idea is that we’ll use the grant to get the course designed and get it up and running, and then once that’s done hopefully we can find some other means of supporting it through time,” said Dornbush.

The grant is being used to pay for transportation and supplies for the students, as well as to free Dornbush’s time to teach and coordinate the new seminar. Students will be traveling to Baird Creek several times throughout fall semester 2014 to take part in conservation activities that will mirror what they are learning in the classroom.

The Baird Creek Preservation Foundation was formed by a group of concerned citizens in 1997 in order to protect the Baird Creek Greenway.

“A piece of land was going to be developed that the citizens had used even though they didn’t own it for years,” Dornbush said, “They said, ‘We can’t let this happen. We need to protect it for the public good.’”

Since then, the foundation has won several awards honoring those efforts, and members have continued their mission to “enhance the greenway’s value as an ecological, educational, and recreational resource for Northeastern Wisconsin,” according to their website.

While working at the greenway, students will be assisting in several different projects.

“On site they will be doing a biodiversity inventory of part of the greenway, as well as learning about invasive species and native plants,” said Maureen Meinhardt, executive director of the foundation. “The Baird Creek Preservation Foundation has received thousands of donated native plants, and the students will also be helping us plant them in the greenway, as well as gather seeds from existing plants to spread next season, and removing invasive species.”

(Story continues below.)

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According to Meinhardt, the larger grant issued to the foundation will be used to fund their C.O.R.E. program, which stands for Conservation, Outdoor Recreation, and Education. Through this program the grant will be funding various events and programs at the greenway, including an Earth Day clean-up, a 5K Run and Walk, and various hikes and educational programs for children. The grant also funded two internships last summer and has allowed the foundation to test an iPhone app that would provide visitors to the greenway with interesting facts using their GPS coordinates.

The grant will be covering 75 percent of the costs of the program and the foundation will provide the rest through fundraising.

Dornbush hopes that this experience will push incoming students to go out of their comfort zone and try something new. Developing a connection between the community and the classroom is something Dornbush has found beneficial in other classes he’s taught.

“I’ve seen it with the Costa Rica course we run,” he said. “We take students to Costa Rica and we work with a National Park and communities. It’s very powerful. I think we can do the same thing here. We don’t necessarily need to go all the way to Costa Rica to get that same experience.”

Engagement was a goal for the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation, as well. According to Dornbush, the foundation has many active members who are retired, but wants to get younger people involved in the efforts.

“In supporting the first-year seminar course led by Dr. Dornbush, our goal is to engage UWGB students in the Green Bay community through learning about the ‘jewel’ we have in the 500 acres of natural woodland in the city of Green Bay — the Baird Creek Greenway,” said Meinhardt.

Dornbush has a similar goal. While he hopes that students will leave with knowledge of conservation biology, he also wants students to see the connections they can form with their community.

“I want our students to see that citizens can make a difference through their actions,” he said. “If I preach it to them they’re not going to internalize it. But experiencing it, they do.”

— Story by Katelyn Staaben ’15, student communication intern
 and photos by Lauren Hlavka ’15, student photography intern, Office of Marketing and University Communication

UW-Green Bay wins $161k grant for new approaches to first-year achievement

With a grant award of $161,504 for the “Phoenix GPS Program,” UW-Green Bay is one of more than two dozen institutions across Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa receiving support for new initiatives meant to keep students in college and on track academically, socially and financially.

Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation is distributing a total of $4.5 million in grants this fall.  The non-profit company favors initiatives that serve students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and those who are first in their family to attend college.

The Great Lakes grant to the Phoenix GPS Program will enable UW-Green Bay to create a year-long support community for a group of 125 first-year students, placing them into small groups of 25, each with a faculty mentor, a peer mentor, and an academic adviser. Over the course of the year, students will:

— Complete a first-year seminar course together — The first-year seminar courses are designed to offer a small-class, high-impact learning experience that involves challenging assignments, support to develop the skills necessary for academic success and an introduction to the interdisciplinary mission of the University;
— Participate in TOSS study sessions — These workshops have been found to eliminate the achievement gap in UW-Green Bay’s Introduction to Human Biology course, and the weekly, hands-on study sessions will be offered for GPS students;
—Participate in Student Success Workshops – These workshops provide students with opportunities to develop skills essential to academic success including time management, to polish relevant life skills such as financial management, to begin work on academic-major exploration and career planning, and to learn about the resources and services the University provides to support student success;
— Engage in co-curricular and social activities — GPS students will meet regularly with program staff and other students, including monthly dinners;
— Consult regularly with faculty mentors and academic advisers — GPS students will meet regularly with faculty mentors and academic advisers in order to identify and address any problems early, receiving individualized support if necessary; and
— Complete a service learning project together.

The activities aim to improve retention and persistence by helping students develop academic success skills, become familiar with campus resources, develop helpful relationships with mentors and peers, and connect to the campus community through co-curricular and service involvement.

The “GPS” in Phoenix GPS Program is an acronym for Gateways to Phirst-Year Success.

“The choice of a GPS as a metaphor was quite intentional,” says Denise Bartell, an associate professor of Human Development and Psychology who guided development of the proposal. “The Phoenix GPS Program is designed to help students navigate their first year of college, anticipate the roadblocks, and chart a course to first-year success.”

Bartell is director for the Students in Transition Center at UW-Green Bay, and has been active in promoting programs and teaching practices that are intended to improve graduation rates and year-to-year retention. Bartell wrote the Great Lakes grant proposal in collaboration with Michael Stearney, the University’s dean of enrollment services.

Attention to retention is especially important at UW-Green Bay, Bartell says, where nearly two-thirds of students are from one or more of the three historically under-represented constituencies. In a given year, roughly 60 percent of UW-Green Bay students are first generation, 40 percent are eligible for federal Pell Grants and 10 percent are people of color.

“Since these students often have a more difficult transition to college, they are statistically more likely to leave before completing their degree,” Bartell says. “The Phoenix GPS Program offers these students a comprehensive array of services intentionally designed to increase student success in the first year by addressing the specific barriers to success our research indicates students at UW-Green Bay face.”

“Success for a first-year student certainly includes getting good grades in their first semester,” Stearney says. “But success is also about building deep and supportive relationships with fellow students, faculty and staff, developing the skills and habits of a successful college student, growing in self-confidence, and getting connected with the Green Bay campus and community.”

The Great Lakes grant also supports more academic support to first-year students in the form of additional assistance from staff members in the University’s Academic Advising office, student tutors and peer mentors.

Bartell says total funding for the project is more than $260,000, which includes a match of approximately $100,000 by the University to the Great Lakes grant. She says more than 20 faculty and academic staff members and students from across campus will be involved in implementing the program.

“It’s very important to all of us at UW-Green Bay that all students who enroll at our University are given every chance to succeed,” Bartell says. “The funding from the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation allows us to develop a sustainable program to ensure that historically under-represented students succeed and thrive in college.”

“The programs being funded by this round of College Success grants are providing services proven to help students make progress toward their degree,” said Richard D. George, Great Lakes’ president and chief executive officer. “Each program has been thoughtfully designed to address the challenges known to keep students from graduating, helping them to develop connections to their campus, peers, faculty and staff and overcome financial obstacles. We look forward to seeing the impact of each of these programs in helping their students persist toward graduation.”

Along with UW-Green Bay, Wisconsin institutions receiving Great Lakes College Success grants are Alverno College, Cardinal Stritch University, Milwaukee Area Technical College, Mount Mary University, Marquette University and UW-Milwaukee in Milwaukee, College Possible of Milwaukee, Madison College, St. Norbert College in De Pere, UW-Eau Calire, UW College-Marathon County, UW-Oshkosh and UW-Parkside.

To see the Great Lakes Higher Education Guaranty Corporation news release and details on all of the projects, visit the webpage here.

Freshman seminar students make statement with fish art

Animals and Society Freshman Seminar
A group of students from Karen Dalke’s freshman seminar class, Animals and Society, took their lead from another seminar course and recently created art with a message. The students including Keirsten Neihous and Jenessa Denfeld (above) displayed their work, “The Fish’s Perspective,” near the Garden Cafe in the Cofrin Library last week. Dalke says the public-art project was inspired by Ellen Rosewall’s Arts Management Seminar class. Students in Rosewall’s seminar created and displayed six chalk board doors, inspired by visiting artist Candy Chang, and placed them around campus to pose questions and invoke creativity, innovation, and vision. Dalke, a faculty member in Democracy and Justice Studies, credited an Animals and Society seminar “alumna,” Holly Anderson, for suggesting the current students’ response. (Along with Neihous and Denfeld, other students contributing ideas and art to the display were  Amy Baldwin, Lucas Bennetts, Hailey Heimerl, Katelyn Heuser, Rachel Hill and Izzy Niemi.)  The art was in keeping with their shared interest in human-animal interactions and the perspective of the animal as “other.”

 

Labyrinth activity caps freshman seminar on the power of belief

1st Year Seminar Labyrinth, Psych 198: Gods, Ghosts, & Goblins

As an award-winning professor at a university that embraces interdisciplinarity, Regan A.R. Gurung is accustomed to finding inspiration in unexpected places.

So perhaps it’s not a surprise that an album from the musician Sting — of whom Gurung is a big fan — led to what’s becoming a signature exercise in one of Gurung’s signature courses, the “Gods, Ghosts and Goblins” freshman seminar.

“I was looking for a kinesthetic activity, something to get the class out — something that would be for them a big visual sign,” Gurung said, “and, fortuitously, (the album) ‘Songs from the Labyrinth’ came on. It just made a lot of sense because I thought about that a long time ago — the fact that the labyrinth is this meditative thing.”

Meditative, reflective — and therefore perfect for a course (subtitled “The Psychology of Belief”) that explores why we believe what we do. The labyrinth, unlike the maze for which it is often mistaken, has just one path — and therefore allows those who travel there to remain centered and free from distractions. From medieval times, monks have traveled labyrinths in prayer. St. Norbert Abbey in De Pere, just a short drive from campus, maintains a prayer labyrinth today.

So, Gurung thought, why not make one at UW-Green Bay? His fall 2010 seminar course was the first to do so, and after Gurung’s 2011-12 sabbatical, his current seminar class got its chance Tuesday (Nov. 27) in the campus quad. Using environmentally safe spray paint, all 25 of Gurung’s students had a hand in the project, carefully creating the labyrinth and marking the outside with various religious symbols. Afterward, they walked its path — which takes longer than one might think, due to all the twists and turns, Gurung said — before retiring inside for hot chocolate and discussion of the day’s event.

“The nice thing about the labyrinth is, it doesn’t have to be any specific religion,” Gurung said, “and it doesn’t even have to be God. It can be (being) one with yourself, you know, and I really like that concept. …We take a step back, and at the heart of it all is the self-focus.”

Gurung’s “Gods, Ghosts and Goblins” class has become one of the University’s most popular courses, essentially filling on the first day of fall registration. Begun in 2006, UW-Green Bay freshman seminars are designed to provide a small-class experience, more interaction with faculty and peers, and a higher level of direct engagement with issues and information than is typical in a larger, general-education course. They’re an oft-cited example of what are termed high-impact practices, those experiences and initiatives that impact student success by enhancing learning and fostering engagement and persistence for students.

Plus, the classes are a lot of fun.

“When the learning outcome is the stimulating thinking and stuff like that,” Gurung said, “the seminar gives you the flexibility to reach that end in nontraditional ways.”

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Photos by Kimberly Vlies, Office of Marketing and University Communication

Seminar project invokes public-space artistry of Common Theme speaker

First Year Seminar art project

Profs. Ellen Rosewall, Jeni Mokren and Michelle McQuade Dewhirst helped First Year Seminar students prepare for an upcoming Common Theme event this week, using art to improve the public space in which they learn.

Inspired by artist, designer and urban planner Candy Chang, who will speak on campus Thursday (Nov. 8), the students drew pictures and wrote words on pieces of paper that read “this is where I want to be” and “this is how college will take me there.” The myriad inspirational drawings and sayings then were posted on the third floor of Theatre Hall, where they will remain at least until Chang’s visit Thursday.

Chang is well known for her work to make cities more comfortable and contemplative places. She believes in the potential of introspection and collective wisdom in public space to improve communities and personal well-being. By combining street art with urban planning, social activism and philosophy, Chang has been recognized as a leader in developing new strategies for the design of cities. She will speak on “The City: 2.0” at 8 p.m. Thursday in the Phoenix Room of the University Union.

Chang’s visit is one in a series of events for the 2012-13 campuswide Common Theme, “Creativity, Innovation & Vision.” More information about the Common Theme, including upcoming events, is at www.uwgb.edu/commontheme/events/.

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Press-Gazette highlights freshmen retention efforts, related grant

UW-Green Bay’s freshmen retention initiatives are making news after UW System announced a $38,000 grant to help bolster the already successful efforts. First-year Seminars and FOCUS were highlighted in a Saturday (July 16) Green Bay Press-Gazette story featuring Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Scott Furlong. As we told you last week, the money will be used to establish the Center for Students in Transition here on campus. More on the good news.

 

FOCUS, Seminars gain recognition, $38,000 grant for ‘Transition Center’

student-retention programsRecognition of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s success with a pair of freshmen-retention initiatives —the First-Year Seminar program and FOCUS — has yielded additional funding to further those efforts.

UW-Green Bay was recently selected to receive a $37,901 Growth Agenda Grant for 2011-12. The competitive grant awarded by the UW System supports high-impact practices for boosting student retention and graduation rates.

UW-Green Bay will use its grant to establish the “Center for Students in Transition.”

The Center will address strategies to assist new freshmen and transfers — the students typically most at risk to stop out or drop out — in making successful transitions to university life. The grant charges UW-Green Bay with developing and modeling best practices for possible replication at other UW System institutions.

Scott Furlong

Scott Furlong

Scott Furlong, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and lead author of the grant proposal, says the award reflects UW-Green Bay’s recent history in taking an enterprising approach to retention, degree attainment and the success of diverse learners.

“We’d like to be a beacon, not only locally, but beyond,” Furlong says. “We already share information, at national and regional conferences and within the UW System, about our successes and challenges, so this grant allows us to better document and, we hope, expand those efforts.

“The grant is also much-deserved recognition for the dedicated work of faculty and staff across the University.”

Signs of success

UW-Green Bay officials are encouraged by data indicating significant retention benefits from the ongoing First-Year Seminar initiative. The pilot project in recent years has grown to enroll at least one-third of all new freshmen in a Seminar course.

The courses provide students a small-class experience, more interaction with faculty and peers, and a higher level of direct engagement with issues and information than is typical in a larger, general-education course. Faculty members report being encouraged by the way participants seem to better adjust to the critical thinking, problem solving and study skills associated with university-level work.

The impact on retention is promising. As of early July, among last fall’s freshmen with the benefit of a First-Year Seminar course, 82 percent had already registered to return for fall 2011 to begin their sophomore years. That’s a solid retention rate and roughly 10 points ahead of those who didn’t take a Seminar course.

(The retention differentials in previous years were more modest, but still consistent, with advantages in the 3- to 5-point range for new freshmen who took a First-Year Seminar.)

Additionally, follow-up surveys show seminar students reporting they were more likely to contribute to class discussion, be exposed to different ideas, and complete coursework that emphasized applications. They also attended more co-curricular activities, reported improvement in their writing, and believed the class eased their adjustment to college.

Return on investment

While the University has pursued additional funding to expand First-Year Seminars and mount more of the smaller sections, scarce resources and another round of state budget cuts make that result unlikely, at least in the coming year, and the UW System Grant cannot be applied to hire more instructors.

Furlong and others, however, believe that the new Center for Students in Transition will yield results in faculty and curriculum development. With better understanding of which teaching techniques work best and which freshmen benefit most from the experience, the institution will seek to extend the effectiveness of its retention initiatives even at current size and scale.

Also encouraging is research suggesting that such initiatives can be particularly effective with students from traditionally under-represented groups. One of the Center’s priorities will be to more thoroughly explore those findings.

Moving forward

In the long term, advocates say, success for the Center should translate to higher student achievement, personal success for more students and graduates, and perhaps steadier enrollment and tuition revenue for the institution.

The first step in establishing the Center will be appointment of a UW-Green Bay faculty member to assume part-time duties as director. Immediate objectives will include the pursuit of additional grants and fundraising opportunities, and the hosting of an annual academic conference related to the Center’s research.

Principal investigator for the project is Furlong. Others listed as investigators are Associate Dean Donna Ritch, Dean of Students Brenda Amenson Hill, Director of Institutional Research Debbie Furlong, and Profs. Denise Bartell, Regan Gurung and Georjeanna Wilson-Doenges of Human Development, Andrew Kersten and Kim Nielsen of Democracy and Justice Studies, Aeron Haynie of Humanistic Studies, and Steve Meyer of Natural and Applied Sciences.

Links to FOCUS

The First-Year Seminar program is linked closely to the universitywide initiative known as FOCUS (First-year Opportunities and Connections for UW-Green Bay Students). FOCUS represents a targeted effort to design registration, orientation, welcome activities and first-year programs to ensure new students a fast start.

So far, students who take part in FOCUS events and take a First-Year Seminar course are performing better in classes and more likely to remain enrolled.

Currently FOCUS serves all incoming freshman through a variety of programs including Resources and Registration (R&R), Orientation, First-Year Seminars, Majors Fair, and other events. The University continues to monitor and evaluate all of its FOCUS program and how they support student success

“Ultimately, we would like to expand what we’re doing so that all new students will experience high-impact programs, classes and a rigorous liberal arts curriculum,” Furlong says.

Video: First-year seminar students create board game for elderly

A group of UW-Green Bay freshmen is getting accolades for a class project. The students created a board game as part of a First-Year Seminar course called “The Meaning of Play.” They also took their creation to an area nursing home where they learned valuable lessons from some residents. Prof. Illene Noppe (Human Development) said the unique project highlights the value of the First-Year Seminars. “It even gives me goose bumps to think about the transformation that I saw take place over one semester,” Noppe said. Reporter Robert Hornacek has more on the game, the project and students.

Students create board game for elderly

These three UW-Green Bay freshmen didn’t know each other, until they took a First-Year Seminar course called “The Meaning of Play.”

The three were partners on a group project where they had to create a game for the elderly. As you can see from this video, the students took it further, by going to play their new game with residents of a Green Bay area nursing home.

“It was just really neat to interact with them and they were so happy to have us come there. It was really fun,” said freshman Kelsey Riesterer from Manitowoc.

The board game examined the physical, cognitive and social aspects of play for elderly through a series of questions and answers.

“It just got them up moving around, got their brains working and it’s just a fun way to interact with people in the community,” said freshman Jenna Bradley from Crandon.

The students weren’t just there to play. They were also there to listen and learn.

“A lot of our questions had to deal with past events. And hearing them tell their own stories about the questions that related to it, it was just really cool to hear about it,” said freshman Lisa Gehrke from Mequon.

“It was just really fun,” Riesterer said. “We didn’t think we would stay very long. We thought it would take 15 minutes. We stayed for over an hour and we weren’t bored. It was a fun experience.”

Professor Illene Noppe says the project was excellent.

“They really thought carefully about the construction of their game and how it would help elderly people. It was very impressive,” Noppe said.

As a First-Year Seminar course, the class is designed to help students adjust to campus life and develop intellectual and life skills, in a small size seminar environment.

“What the first-year seminars are really trying to do is to teach our new students how to think on a higher plane, how to critically analyze, how to problem solve. There’s a lot of emphasis on interdisciplinarity,” Noppe said.

Noppe said the seminar courses are a valuable part of the curriculum.

“I told my students toward the end of the semester that the first day that I met them I saw high school seniors. And that now when I look out in the classroom I see college students,” Noppe said. “It even gives me goose bumps to think about the transformation that I saw take place over one semester.”

Students give the course high marks.

“I liked it a lot. It’s more one-on-one. You can meet with your teacher a lot easier. She helps you a lot,” Gehrke said.

“It was an out-of-the-box class. It wasn’t just your average subject like English or math. It was different. You got to explore new things in the class and I got to learn a lot of interesting things I never thought I would,” Bradley said.

And they also got to make new friends in the process.