Frequently Asked Questions: First-Year Engagement Plans

  1. My unit is offering a three-credit seminar to meet First-Year Engagement requirements. Do we need to offer any additional engagement activities?

If your first-year seminar is:

    • taught by tenure-line or other regular, full-time faculty members (not staff or graduate students)
    • taught in the student’s college or campus of enrollment
    • taught in sections of not more than 25 students
    • academic in content, exemplifying the full weightiness and expectations of University-level coursework and ideally satisfying General Education or other College or Major Requirements and it addresses the FYE goals and objectives, then your unit does not need to add other engagement activities. However, all units are encouraged to consider additional ways in which they can reinforce the goals and objectives of first year engagement such as intensive advising programs, special orientation programs, etc.

If your unit offers a First-Year Seminar, but it is not required, or if your First-Year Seminar carries fewer than 3-credits, then other engagement activities are also needed.


  1. Will first-year seminar courses still be indentified by the “S” suffix?

If the course is:

    • taught by tenure-line or other regular, full-time faculty members (not staff or graduate students)
    • taught in the student’s college or campus of enrollment
    • taught in sections of not more than 25 students
    • academic in content, exemplifying the full weightiness and expectations of University-level coursework and ideally satisfying General Education or other College or Major Requirementsand it addresses the FYE Goals and Objectives, then your unit can continue to use the “S” suffix to indentify these courses. Any course that meets these requirements, including courses that are requirements for General Education, College, or Major, may be indentified with the “S” suffix.

  1. My unit plans to offer one section of a regular course as a First-Year Seminar. May we identify that section through the use of the “S” suffix?

Yes, as long as your course meets the requirement outlined in Question 2.


  1. Who may teach First-Year Seminars?

All First-Year Seminars must be taught by tenure-line or other 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.


  1. Do we need to offer our First-Year Seminar to students who have transferred to Penn State from another institution after the completion of their first year?

No, if a student has spent at least one year (two semesters) at another campus or institution, the FYE requirement is considered complete. Also, if the student has spent a summer and a semester, the FYE requirement is considered complete. For students whose prior study may not have been in a semester system, a reasonable credit-equivalent can be used, such as 24 credits earned while the student has been in college not counting AP, CLEP, or other credits acquired while the student was in high school.


  1. Do students who change colleges or campuses within Penn State need to take another First-Year Seminar, or complete another First-Year Engagement set of requirements?

No. Although FYE will be implemented differently according to the college or campus, because of the shared underlying concepts it is not necessary for any student to go through the FYE more than once.


  1. In developing our assessment plan, we would like to state measurable learning outcomes. Do you have suggestions?

Units are encouraged to refer to the Learning and Assessment Outcomes developed by the FYE Review Committee. This site provides examples of measurable student learning outcomes associated with the five objectives identified in the Faculty Senate legislation. Note that these are only examples; they can be modified as appropriate for a unit’s specific discipline and situation.


  1. How does my unit develop an assessment plan for our FYE Plan?

At this point, units do not need to have their final assessment instruments prepared but they must indicate how they plan to undertake this assessment. For example, a plan might state that the unit will use assessment procedures such as questions that would be distributed at the end of the first semester, focus groups, eventual exit interviews with seniors, etc., in order to address the five objectives; the unit may also collect data such as retention studies, etc. The implementation of your assessment plan will depend on the particular learning outcomes that your unit develops. Assessment also will depend on the context within which your FYE Plan is delivered. In some cases, faculty might include assessment within FYS courses that would serve the dual purpose of assessment for the course as well as for First-Year Engagement. In other cases, units may develop surveys or similar instruments. For example, the measure “students will describe the meaning of academic integrity,” if chosen, might be assessed at a small campus through student focus groups and at a large college through a survey.


  1. Does my unit need to include DUS students in our FYE Plan?

If your unit is a University Park college, then you must include spaces for DUS students in your plan. The Office of Undergraduate Education will provide each college with an annual number of First-Year Seminar spaces that must be made available to DUS students. This target will be based on data showing a rolling average number of students who have moved from DUS into your college in the past three years.

If your First-Year Seminars carry fewer than 3 credits, DUS students must also be accommodated in the supporting programming that will accompany your 1- or 2-credit seminars.

If your unit is a campus (not a University Park College), then you do not need to provide a separate statement about DUS students. DUS students are automatically included in your plan to serve all incoming students at your campus.


  1. In addition to First-Year Seminars, what other activities might our plan include?

If a University Park college plans to offer First-Year Seminars that carry less than a 3-credit weight, then your plan must include additional activities that will achieve the goals and objectives of the Senate legislation. For example, your unit might develop additional related course work, advising programs, college-level meetings, or orientation programs that would serve to meet the goals and objectives of the legislation.

Campuses other than University Park are not required to offer First-Year Seminars but must describe how all students will have small-classroom experiences taught by full-time faculty members. As at University Park, if a campus were to choose to require 3-credit First-Year Seminars, then other activities are not required. However, if a campus provides First-Year Seminars that carry 1 or 2 credits, or does not provide First-Year Seminars, then supplementary activities need to be identified. For example, your unit might develop additional related course work, advising programs, campus-level meetings, or orientation programs that would serve to meet the goals and objectives of the legislation.


  1. Is the First-Year Seminar still a General Education requirement?

No, this is no longer a requirement linked specifically to General Education. However, having First-Year Seminars, if they are offered, count for General Education credit is encouraged in fields where this is appropriate.


  1. Is the First-Year Seminar a graduation requirement?

All University Park colleges must retain a First-Year Seminar as a graduation requirement. Other campuses may choose to retain the FYS as a graduation requirement.


  1. When is my unit’s FYE Plan due to the review committee?

All plans are due to the committee by February 1, 2009. Plans will be reviewed and returned to the unit by March 15, 2009.


  1. How often will unit FYE Plans be reviewed?

The FYE Plans will receive a one-time review and approval by the Joint Senate/Administrative Review Committee of the First-Year Engagement Plans. This review will occur in the Spring 2009 semester. In 2013-14, the Senate, in consultation with the Office of the Vice President for Undergraduate Education, will review the extent to which the plans have been implemented and assess their effectiveness based on unit assessment data.


  1. When must FYE Plans be implemented?

FYE Plans must be implemented in the second session of Summer 2009 for incoming first-year students. Note that Arrival Day for new students will be June 28, 2009 and classes will begin July 1, 2009.


  1. How will FYE Plans be communicated to students, faculty, and staff in my unit?

All unit plans, or an appropriate summary of them, must be published on the unit website. Since the website will be intended for the general public, units may want to present their First-Year Engagement Plans in a way that prospective students, high school advisors, and other members of the public will easily understand, with a link to further detail that may be of interest primarily to Penn State personnel.


  1. Our college is developing a new three-credit FYS course as part of our First-Year Engagement Plan; is it necessary to submit a  course proposal to the Senate Curricular Affairs Committee?

Yes, your college will need to submit a “Course Add” proposal on the ANGEL Course Submission and Consultation System (CSCS)


18. Our campus wants to make some changes to our existing three-credit FYS, including changing the course title, credits, and 400-word description.  Do we need to submit a proposal to the Senate Curricular Affairs Committee?

Yes, your campus will need to submit a “Course Change” proposal on the ANGEL Course Submission and Consultation System (CSCS)


  1. This is a question about the “transportability” of FYS credits.   If a student take a one credit FYS course in Engineering and then changes into a Liberal Arts major (with a three-credit FYS requirement), does the student need to “make-up” the additional two credits of FYS?

A student does not need to fulfill the FYE expectation more than once. Thus, if an engineering student takes a one-credit FYS in engineering and participates in the accompanying engineering FYE components, and then transfers to Liberal Arts, this student does not need to also fulfill the Liberal Arts FYE expectation. However, this student needs to meet Liberal Arts expectations for total credits for graduation, which could mean that the student will take 2 credits in something else along the way.