Behrend First-Year Engagement Plan

Behrend FYE Plan (PDF)

*Use this form if your campus’s First-Year Engagement Plan REQUIRES a First-Year Seminar of all students.
First-Year Engagement Plan Submission Form
Commonwealth Campuses

Submission Date: February 1, 2009
Submitted By: David Christiansen
Title: Associate Dean
Campus: Behrend

1. First-Year Seminar characteristics. Does your first-year seminar meet the following  criteria? All criteria below (a-e) must be met by for the plan to fulfill the legislation.

The criterion below is followed by your College/Unit.

a. 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) If the college dean plans to grant an exception, please provide explanation in space below. (Please limit your answer to 500 words or less.)

Penn State Behrend requests a limited and temporary exemption from the full-time faculty requirement for instructors of FYS. For the last ten years the College has offered three one-credit FYS sections that were taught by experienced DUS academic advisers, all of whom possess a Master’s degree. These sections — which represent less than 5% of the FYS sections offered by the College — are reserved for DUS students. In addition to meeting the goals and objectives of first-year engagement, these sections are designed to assist undecided students in identifying career interests and potential academic majors.

The College intends to continue offering these sections and we are in the process of identifying and recruiting full-time faculty members to teach them. However, until full-time faculty members agree to teach these courses, we request permission to continue using experienced DUS academic advisers.

b. taught in the student’s campus of enrollment (in other words, you will provide a FYS for all incoming students at your campus)

c. taught in sections of not more than 25 students

d. 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)

e. 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 first-year seminar provide? Please answer 1 Credit, 2 Credits, 3 Credits, or Other (For example, different sections provide 1, 2, or 3 credits).


If you answered “Other” in Question Number 2 above, provide explanation below. (Please limit your answer to 500 words or less.)

The vast majority of FYS sections offered at Penn State Behrend will carry one academic credit. However, some faculty members wish to offer an existing three- or four-credit course with an S designation. These multi-credit sections are primarily offered for engineering and biology students.

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.)

Students attending FTCAP over the summer will participate in a series of orientation and advising activities structured to address the FYE goals and objectives. All students will have an individual, 30-minute session with an academic adviser to schedule their classes for the fall semester. Students will meet with a faculty member from their intended general academic discipline (e.g., engineering, business, natural sciences, social sciences, humanities), and during this session they will discuss issues associated with the transition from high school to college. FTCAP will also introduce students to the “Freshman Advising Module” (FAM), an ANGEL-hosted program created by the Behrend faculty to address the FYE goals and objectives. It consists of fourteen sections dealing with pertinent academic topics, including the development of computer, reading, writing, note-taking, and studying skills; working and communicating with faculty members; documenting research sources; and academic integrity. The module includes a series of readings, review questions, and quizzes.

Once students arrive in the fall, they will participate in a three-day orientation that has been developed jointly by Academic Affairs and Student Affairs. Through a series of talks, workshops, and activities, students will learn about academic support services at Behrend, co-curricular activities, opportunities for social and personal growth, the Penn State principles, diversity issues, and the academic expectations of the faculty. These topics will be reinforced and further developed throughout the semester in each FYS section. Instructors will introduce additional topics (e.g., academic advising, general education, academic integrity, etc.). Most FYS sections will also schedule talks from representatives from academic support units (e.g., the Learning Resource Center, the Division of Undergraduate Education, the Career Development Center, Personal Counseling, etc.).

More than half of the first-time students will enroll in a First-Year Interest Group (FIG). FIGs support new students in their transition to college through a comprehensive and integrated program that promotes the exploration of an academic interest, encourages interpersonal connections between students, faculty, and staff, and introduces students to campus resources. The College offers about 25 FIGs, each of which consists of a FYS section and a second class (e.g., ENGL 015) in which all the students of the FYS section are enrolled. A FIG mentor (upper-class student) works with students to link the FYS and the second class.

Finally, all sections of ENGL 015 and ENGL 030 taught at Behrend have been refined to support the FYE goals and objectives. For example, instructors introduce students to the broad nature of university study (objective 1) by having them develop “academic argument” skills (i.e., they learn how to make a persuasive argument utilizing the conventions of a given academic discipline, such as literature, chemistry, history, etc.). All ENGL 015/030 students take a library tutorial to familiarize themselves with LIAS, research databases, and available learning resources (objective 3). Finally, virtually every section is taught by a full-time faculty member and no sections are taught by graduate students. Class assignments focus on the peer review of writing and often include collaborative assignments (objective 4).

4. 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 will consist of quantitative and qualitative measurements of student progress toward meeting the FYE goals and objectives. First, student responses on the FAM will be used to collect preliminary data on freshmen attitudes, perceptions, concerns, and expectations of their college experience. Secondly, at the conclusion of the fall semester FYS students will fill out an on-line questionnaire to measure how well the FYE goals and objectives have been accomplished. This measurement tool will be developed by the Undergraduate Studies Committee in conjunction with the Institutional Research Committee and the Division of Undergraduate Studies. Finally, each spring a sampling of graduating seniors who spent their entire Penn State career at Behrend will be surveyed. We anticipate that we will invite a select number of students to meet with a trained interviewer to discuss their experiences at Behrend, especially in terms of how their first-year experience prepared them for a successful college career.

Data gathered from these three assessment instruments will be analyzed by the Institutional Research Committee, which will report their findings to the Faculty Council and the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. The Faculty Council will make appropriate recommendations for changes to the FYE based on these data; the Faculty Organization will review and approve any significant changes to the Behrend FYE.