EDINBORO, Pa. – Adjusting to life and classes in a college setting is often a difficult task for incoming first-year students. Doing all that in the middle of a pandemic is an entirely new challenge.
It’s a challenge the Edinboro First-Year Experience (FYE) program is taking head-on.
“FYE is an extended department and university orientation. We pick up where New Student Orientation (NSO) and Welcome Weekend leave off,” said Dr. Karen Lindeman, FYE Coordinator and associate professor in the Early Childhood and Reading Department.
The student-focused programming, which is spread throughout the fall semester so that students don’t become overwhelmed, operates with four goals in mind: Discover, Connect, Engage and Grow.
To accomplish this, Lindeman explained, “We support new students each week in FYE/Common Hour – all 700 students have this one hour in 'common'– and through FYE courses or seminars.”
These two main facets of the program, Common Hour and Seminar Courses, are designed with the goal of helping students “learn about Edinboro, and learn about themselves,” according to Lindeman.
During the fall semester, all first-year students are scheduled for a Common Hour on Tuesdays from 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. During this time, they participate in two kinds of programming: department activities and university-wide activities.
Seminar Courses are unique classes offered only to first-year students.
“These are 3-credit courses that meet general education requirements. Classes are limited to only 25 students,” Lindeman said. “Faculty embed study skills and college readiness themes within their highly engaging academic topics.”
Students not only earn credits, but can learn more about the university and campus living as a whole. Lindeman said the professors that teach the seminar courses are there to both teach the courses and to answer questions and solve problems that may arise for the new students.
However, adapting the program to this period of virtual learning has proven to be a challenge.
Lindeman said that the program had to be creative in crafting unique events and presentations to engage first-year students while they learn remotely.
Seminar courses were adapted, as were most classes this fall, to an online format. Some topics included “Ethical Big Questions,” “Jazz, Pop and Rock,” “Evolution of Culture,” Media and Technology,” and “Wacky Weather.”
In addition, Common Hour events have been held over Zoom, along with bigger events for the entire first-year class.
FYE Mini Conference is usually a catered affair in the Pogue Student Center when in-person. This year, with 12 events all held over Zoom, the program saw only half of the class attend.
Lindeman encourages any first-year student to attend each event, hosted every Tuesday over Zoom.
A specific Common Hour approaching on Oct. 6 is the Financial Literacy event, hosted with PSECU. Students can choose from topics such as creating a budget, credit and future employment, with a chance of winning special prizes.
While Lindeman acknowledged that virtual learning isn’t a true substitute for in-person learning, she wants students to feel welcomed at Edinboro and to know that the staff and faculty teaching classes and assisting with the program truly care about their well-being and success.
“Even in a pandemic, Edinboro University provided opportunities for our new students to discover, connect, engage and grow.”