Agricultural Sciences First-Year Engagement Plan

Agricultural Sciences FYE Plan (PDF)

First-Year Engagement Plan Submission Form
University Park

Submission Date: January 29, 2009
Submitted By: J. Marcos Fernandez
Title: Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education
College/Unit: Agricultural Sciences
Email: jmf28

Background. The First-Year Seminar legislation passed by the University Faculty Senate on April 29, 2008, requires that each University Park college and DUS submit a First-Year Engagement plan. The complete Senate legislation is available online at; parts of the legislation are reproduced in this form.

As your unit’s contact, please briefly provide the information requested below. A lengthy response is not needed if the information can be provided by checking a box, or supplying a sentence or two or a paragraph. However, if your unit’s First-Year Engagement plan does not fit the options in the form below, please contact Yvonne Gaudelius (Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and co-chair, FYE Committee, for alternative instructions. Thank you in advance for your participation in this process.

1. First-Year Seminar characteristics. University Park colleges are required to provide at least one credit of first-year seminar. Does your first-year seminar meet the following criteria? All criteria below (a-e) must be met for the plan to fulfill the legislation.

Criterion below that is followed by your College/Unit.

  • taught by tenure-line or other regular, full-time faculty members (not staff or graduate students*) (*the college dean may grant reasonable exceptions, such as for
    professional practitioners who teach annually but whose appointments are not full-time)
  • taught in the student’s college of enrollment (in other words, you will provide a FYS for all incoming students in your college)
  • taught in sections of not more than 25 students
  • academic in content, exemplifying the full weightiness and expectations of University-level coursework (ideally satisfying General Education or other College or Major requirements, though this is not essential)
  • explicitly address the FYE goals and objectives, which are listed here:


  • Goal 1: to engage students in learning and orient them to the scholarly community from the outset of their undergraduate studies in a way that will bridge to later experiences in their chosen majors, and
  • Goal 2: to facilitate students’ adjustment to the high expectations, demanding workload, increased liberties, and other aspects of the transition to college life


  • Objective 1: to introduce students to University study
  • Objective 2: to introduce students to Penn State as an academic community, including fields of study and areas of interest available to students
  • Objective 3: to acquaint students with the learning tools and resources available at Penn State
  • Objective 4: to provide an opportunity for students to develop relationships with full-time faculty and other students in an academic area of interest to them
  • Objective 5: to introduce students to their responsibilities as part of the University community.

2. Credit requirements. How many credits does your required first-year seminar provide?

  • Other
  • The First-Year Seminar (FYS) courses offered in the College of Agricultural Sciences include multiple sections of the two-credit AG 150S, and two sections of the three-credit course, VB SC 050S. The majority of FY students in the college (from 17 of the 20 college’s majors) and DUS students enroll in AG 150S, whereas students in the VBS and TOX/IID majors tend to enroll in VB SC 050S (some still enroll in AG 150S). Both FYS course offerings, although different in academic content and delivery model, fully meet the extent of the Faculty Senate’s FYE Plan. By its very nature, AG 150S is a more generalized course, focusing on student engagement and success, within the all-encompassing context of the “agricultural, environmental and renewable resources in the 21st Century,” whereas VB SC 050S also attempts to engage and prepare students for success, while focusing the subject matter on animal, human and molecular aspects of health and disease.

3. Supplemental programming. [This question must be answered unless your unit will require all students to take a 3-credit first-year seminar. If your unit will require all students to take a 3-credit first-year seminar, this question is optional, though responding is encouraged because supplemental programming will help to make your unit’s overall first-year experience richer.] Identify and briefly describe the additional components (other than the small-class experience) that you plan to offer, such as other courses, special advising programs, intensive orientation experiences, special programs offered by Student Affairs, etc., to meet the goals and objectives of the First-Year Engagement Plan: (Please limit your answer to 500 words or less.)

Our FYS offerings include sessions on many of the topics identified and noted by the Faculty Senate believed to contribute to students’ successful transition, personal, scholarly and professional successes. In addition, at least on an annual basis we host a large “College Student Organizational Informational Fair,” (Fall only) numerous “Study Abroad Information,” “Undergraduate Research Opportunities,” “Meet & Get to Know the Dean” and “College of Ag Sciences Alumni-affiliated” sessions or events, to list a few.

4. How will you accommodate DUS students? You have been provided with data showing a rolling average number of students who have moved from DUS into your academic unit in recent years; briefly indicate how you will accommodate this approximate number. (Please limit your answer to 500 words or less.)

Historically, DUS students have had free access to enroll in AG 150S sections. During any given semester, as much as 20% of the enrollments in AG 150S can be attributed to DUS students. During the Fall semesters we offer 9-10 sections of AG 150S, many clustered around discipline and interest areas (e.g., plant sciences, environmental sciences, renewable resources, community & rural development, agribusiness, animal biology, etc.), whereas we generally offer one section each of AG 150S during the Spring and Summer semesters. Regardless of semester, we welcome DUS students in our AG 150S, and foresee a greater DUS participation as a result of the able leadership exerted by our college DUS coordinator and members in the college’s Office for Undergraduate Education.

Historically, VB SC 050S has not had many DUS students enrolled in this particular version of our college’s FYS offering, but we are eager to welcome DUS students into the course.

5. Assessment plan. How will you assess the extent to which the First-Year Engagement goals and objectives are met? (Please limit your answer to 500 words or less.)

Assessment of our AG 150S FYS course offerings entails numerous evaluations and graded assignments throughout the semester, as well as an end-of-semester questionnaire regarding the students’ perceived usefulness and value of the course’s content and material. In addition, students are voluntarily surveyed during AG 150S and again during their senior year to determine their growth (or lack thereof) in multicultural awareness and internationalization/globalization over their educational tenure at Penn State.

As far as the college’s FYS offering in the form of VB SC 050S, in addition to the assessment we already do for the course, we are working on a program assessment mechanism that fits the course into its programmatic context.
For all of our FYS offerings, monitoring students’ academic performance and retention in the program, the college and the University is a given.