Q&A: Paula Breslin
Paula Breslin, director of the college’s First Year Experience Program, accepted a serious challenge when she assumed responsibilities for the position.
Paula Breslin, director of the college’s First Year Experience Program, accepted a serious challenge when she assumed responsibilities for the position. When she talks about the origins of the program, its ongoing success, and her hopes for its future, it is obvious why she was chosen for this important work.
Q: How did the idea of the First Year Experience Program originate?
A: After researching other universities’ models, Dean Gould and Associate Dean Escoe pioneered many of the components of the McMicken First Year Experience Program during the fall of 2003. The model is based on a menu driven approach that allows students to work with their advisors to compose programs that will best meet their unique needs and interests. It includes mandatory quarterly freshmen advising, freshmen seminars, and the College Success Skills, Discovering A&S, and learning communities courses. The faculty were approached with the FYE concept, and an ad hoc committee was formed to further refine the program.
Q: When and how were you selected to head the program?
A: I was hired in May 2001 as an assistant academic director/senior academic advisor by Educational Services and placed in McMicken’s Advising Center. As an advisor and instructor of College Success Skills, I became interested students’ first college years and wrote a Success Challenge grant proposal to broaden and coordinate our FYE programming. After the grant was awarded, I interviewed for the director position and was pleased to be hired in December 2003.
Q: Freshman seminars are an important component of the program. What are their basic goals, and what benefits do freshmen derive from taking them?
A: Freshman seminars are intended to offer alternatives to large lectures. These interactive, small enrollment courses engage first year students immediately in the intellectual life of the college by exploring significant issues in depth and by introducing them to the process of knowledge discovery required of successful university level scholars. Faculty take time to show students how research should be conducted while engaging them in relevant, narrow topics but not overwhelming them with “capstone” expectations. These three- credit hour courses are offered throughout the year, and each counts toward a core graduation requirement.
Q: What do think the future holds for the program?
A: We believe that the persistence and success of first year students has been impacted by FYE programming. Our 03A freshmen were retained to 04A at a 72% retention rate; of that group those that participated in a freshman seminar were retained at 77%. The faculty will consider expanding the program in the 2005-2006 academic year to require first year courses as part of graduation requirements.
Q: And what about you? Will you be burned out by the time that happens?
A: I love the excitement and challenge of freshmen, and I don’t think I will burn out on being a part of their introduction to college. It is truly exciting to introduce them to all that the University of Cincinnati has to offer and to awaken them to the intellectual adventure of a liberal arts education, one that has not been offered through their secondary education. High school is over, most are glad to be here, and we want to assure them that they have made the BEST choice!
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