Goshen College reviews itself: Creating a foundation of excellence

What are all the notes in the Communicator about this “Foundations of Excellence” thing?

These messages signal the beginning of a two-year project to review and revise the general education core at Goshen College – beginning with the beginning.

Two of the most important program initiatives of the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning are to support the creation of a new first year experience for all Goshen College students, and to lead the review and revision of Goshen College’s general education core.

Last May, the college was selected by the Policy Center on the First Year of College as one of 30 colleges and universities that would participate in a year-long self-study project called “Foundations of Excellence in the First College Year” – also known as “Foundations,” or simply “F-o-E.”

Between 25 and 30 two-year and four-year institutions are selected each year from among the applicants to FoE – the Policy Center’s signature project – and spend the year assessing and discussing what works and what doesn’t work about students’ first year experiences.

Goshen College is looking at its effectiveness in recruiting, admitting, orienting, supporting, advising and teaching new students. The ultimate goal is to create a clear plan to make programmatic improvements that will increase student learning, success and persistence.

Research has long indicated that new students who are successfully integrated into college are much more likely to succeed. So we know that a strong beginning makes a student’s chance of graduating even better.

In describing the importance of this project, John N. Gardner, executive director of the Policy Center on the First Year of College (Brevard, N.C.), said, “While much is known about how a campus can improve new student learning and retention, this information has never been synthesized or translated into aspirational standards that are reflective of best practice.”

According to Gardner, revisions work best as part of a larger strategy that aligns curriculum and co-curriculum. This creates an experience for students that points toward the end – the beginning of “a transformational story.”

Next Wednesday, Feb. 4, Goshen College will take over Newcomer Center from 4-6 p.m.and from 6-8 p.m. to host two sessions about FoE. These sessions are open to the entire campus.

Ross Peterson-Veatch is curriculum director of the Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning

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