SFCC’s GPS Helps First-Year Students Navigate College
“Poor student success results, high non-return rates, and faculty surveys all point to a major issue that some students are facing at South Florida Community College,” said Colleen Rafatti, director, career development center and New Student Orientation Team chair. “First-year students are unprepared for college and its responsibilities.” To address these issues and help students become successful, South Florida Community College (SFCC) has developed the Guide to Personal Success (GPS) as a first-year student initiative.
The initiative has three major goals: equip students with the skills and resources to become proficient in the use of college and support services; engage students in the learning process to be self-reliant, self-confident, and responsible college students; and integrate students into the academic, social, and community activities that will enhance their college experience.
“I encounter students constantly with college questions that should have been addressed even before they started college classes, said Rafatti. “Some students do not understand the difference between high school and college rules and responsibilities; for example, some of the strangest questions I have been asked is what the college’s dress code is or if a student can take classes with her boyfriend and sit beside him in a class or if a student can park their car on campus.” “Our goal is to address these issues through the New Student Orientation and provide students with the friendly face of someone who has the time and patience to share the information with them.”
Three distinct components comprise the GPS program: New Student Orientation, First Year Experience (FYE) Seminar, and Faculty Academy and Teaching Excellence Institute (TEI). The planning, development, and implementation of the GPS program will span a five-year period. The period began in 2009 with topic selection, is currently in the implementation planning stage for 2011, and by 2013 will be offering the Orientation and FYE Seminar online.
Three implementation teams and two support teams were formed to ensure the success of GPS. The three implementation teams include Orientation, First Year Experience (FYE) Seminar, and Teaching Excellence Institute (TEI); the two support teams include Marketing/Promotions and Technology Support. “Various employees throughout the college have been assigned to these teams,” said Dr. Christopher van der Kaay, Institutional Effectiveness Officer and GPS Director. “We are very excited at the progress that they have made and their input in this process has been vitally important to the development of the GPS.”
The Orientation Implementation Team has spent the last few months building the content for the six waypoints of orientation. They have focused on building the first waypoint which is an online, interactive, easy-to-navigate session that will share information about the college, provide prospective students with admissions information, and showcase available college support services. New student orientation will be piloted as early as spring 2012 and offered in full by summer 2012.
“We need faculty and staff to get involved in several aspects of the New Student Orientation,” said Rafatti. “We need employees to identify dynamic students who can lead orientation sessions; we need people who are passionate about helping students transition to college and are interested in teaching different orientation modules; and it is extremely critical for our staff and faculty to spread the word that orientation is mandatory and how important it is to college success.”
The Marketing and Promotions Team met weekly in August and September to develop images, a catchphrase, color palette, and a logo that could be used by all teams while implementing the GPS initiative. Currently, the team is managing the Not-So-Trivial Pursuit contest for employees, printing marketing and promotional materials, and developing signage for the SACS on-site visit in November.
The FYE Seminar Team is currently building the syllabus and course schedule and determining what will be required activities and assignments for the FYE Seminar course. The FYE Seminar course will be a two-hour-long, six-week class offered for flex sessions each academic term. It will be piloted in summer 2012 and fully implemented fall 2012.
The TEI Implementation Team has begun assigning presenters for the TEI that will be offered this spring. While the immediate goal of the TEI is to raise awareness and provide training of FYE Seminar instructors, all faculty and staff at the college will be invited to participate in the numerous professional development opportunities that will be made available throughout the year by the TEI. Both the FYE Academy and TEI will scheduled to start in spring 2012.
SFCC faculty and staff should be aware of the basics of GPS, the goals, the three components, and what the progress is. “Right now, one of the biggest things that faculty and staff can do is read the updates and participate in the various activities we are offering. The SACs on-site review team could ask anyone from any service level questions about SFCC’s GPS program,” said Dr. van der Kaay. The SACs on-site reviewers will visit all SFCC campuses and centers Nov. 7-10. “GPS is a college-wide initiative, and everyone is directly or indirectly involved in the success of the GPS program.”
To get involved in New Student Orientation, contact Rafatti at 784-7411. For more information about the GPS program, contact Dr. van der Kaay at 784-7413.