Term of Award

Spring 1999

Degree Name

Master of Education

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Committee Chair

Dale Grant

Committee Member 1

William Reynolds

Committee Member 2

Mary Coller

Abstract

The First Year Experience is an expansion of what were previously one to two day college orientation programs. Summer orientation programs are now only the beginning of what campuses offer to first year college students. Concerns such as dropping retention rates and falling grade point averages have forced college administrators to reevaluate support systems provided for their newest recruits. These concerns are similar whether the school be public or private, large or small, residential or non-residential. Administrators realize that students who do not feel they are part of a community or succeed academically, may be lost (Chickering, 1974). The First Year Experience programs we are seeing emerge and prosper are interventions, the result of the need to retain students by building communities that enhance their social and academic growth.

Tinto (1987), a theorist of student change in college, developed the theory of Student Departure. This model of attrition and impact says that students enter college with varying characteristics, skills, dispositions, and intentions with respect to attendance and personal goals. The commitment of students to the institution is continuously changing as a result of interaction with the institution's social and academic systems. Gratifying experiences are believed to lead to greater integration and retention. The more closely a student fits into the norm or a subgroup, the more likely integration will occur.

On a residential campus, Residence Life and University Housing departments have changed as a result of adapting to the First Year Experience programs more than any other area or student service on campus. Student housing is now designed not only to satisfy physical needs, such as shelter, but social and academic needs as well. Previously named dormitories have transformed from boarding houses to residence hall communities that foster academic and social opportunities. Descriptions of various residence life programs are plentiful; analysis of these programs are not. This study is a qualitative study of perceptions of a residence life program which is designed to meet both social and academic needs. The distinguishing purpose of this study is to gain some insight into the program's effectiveness as perceived by upperclass students as opposed to current Success in U students.

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