Workshop focuses on students’ first-year

The first year of college is important for students, faculty and staff of any institution. This was the message given to faculty and staff of Tiffin University Wednesday during a professional development workshop facilitated by John Gardner, president of the John N. Gardner Institute.

The goal for the day was to bring together the faculty and staff and generate an action plan to better improve the first-year experience for students, Gardner said.

During the day, the group discussed what the first-year experience is, and where the faculty and staff want it to be.

The group was given 13 case studies to analyze detailing the first year at other institutions such as community colleges and two- and four-year universities, Gardner said. The group was to report their findings and what could be applied to Tiffin University, he said.

“The goal behind the case studies were for the group to find new ways on how to change the culture here,” Gardner said.

Joyce Hall-Yates, dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, said there was one major idea that struck her about the day.

“We as faculty and staff have to speak to the educational needs of students, as well as their emotional and spiritual needs,” she said.

Hall-Yates also discussed ways to improve the experience at TU by focusing on students, creating stronger relationships with students, creating stronger communications and to further develop life skills.

The key factor the university would like to develop and implement for incoming freshmen is to have a student-centered first-year experience seminar that is community based, Nick Reinhard, instructor of Social Sciences and coordinator of first-year studies at TU, said.

“For many students, Tiffin becomes home to them for the next four years,” he said. “We want to help build stronger relationships and connections with the community and help the students become active citizens.”

Director of Financial Aid Andrea Faber said many students she has come across do not even realize Hedges-Boyer Park exists.

“We should have a stronger community involvement and help students become more acclimated with Tiffin,” Faber said.

Many suggestions that were given, Tiffin University already does, President Paul Marion said.

“We brought John Gardner here today to help find out what TU is doing right and ways to further improve our students’ first years here,” he said.

Marion said Gardner and a team of faculty and staff are to work together to form an action plan and figure out what resources are needed.

One aspect is the new Murphy Academic Support Center. Marion said with that facility, the university is to have a larger space for tutoring and activities to further engage the students and faculty.

“The first-year experience is an important topic for TU,” Marion said. “We dedicate our time to provide the best education experience for students and always look for ways to improve. We will continue to focus on the first year and do anything we can to help better ourselves as an institution.”