Fitchburg State University has been selected by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) to participate in the three-year “Re-Imagining the First Year of College” (RFY) project, a sweeping initiative aimed at transforming the first year of college to enhance students’ success in their undergraduate years and in the 21st century workplace. Only 44 institutions in the country were selected to participate.
The first year of college has emerged as the critical barrier to student success, the point at which undergraduate institutions experience the greatest loss of students. The objective of the RFY project is to help project participants – and ultimately the broader AASCU membership of 420 state colleges and universities – to implement changes that enhance the first-year student experience and increase student retention and graduation rates, particularly among historically underserved populations.
As part of AASCU’s RFY project, Fitchburg State will select and implement proven, innovative strategies and programs, adapting them to the campus’s unique environment and needs. The evidence-based strategies focus on four core areas to help first-year students succeed: institutional intentionality, curriculum, faculty and staff roles, and student roles. Fitchburg State will also participate in a learning community along with the 43 other state colleges and universities selected for RFY. The learning community will enable RFY participants to attend national conferences and educational webinars, receive one-on-one mentoring, access online tools and resources, and share ideas, successful strategies and lessons learned with each other.
“We are pleased that these AASCU institutions will commit their enormous talent and knowledge to the success of this initiative, which I believe will have a profound effect on undergraduate education in the 21st century,” said George Mehaffy, vice president for academic leadership and change at AASCU. “The state colleges and universities we selected for RFY represent a broad swath of the institutional landscape and exhibit strong leadership and other qualities that are conducive to effecting broad-scale and sustainable change. Together, with the engagement of all campus stakeholders – from students to academic leadership – we will strive to transform the first-year student experience and ensure student success,” he added.
“We are honored to be part of this most important initiative, which has the potential to transform higher education,” Fitchburg State President Richard S. Lapidus said. “Students across the nation will benefit from the work happening on our campuses.”
AASCU will kick off the RFY initiative with academic leaders attending the association’s 2016 Academic Affairs Winter Meeting in Austin, Texas from Feb. 4-6, 2016. RFY is being funded by generous grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds.