Freshman Connections

For Faculty and Staff

This page provides information for faculty and staff who are involved with Freshman Connections. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us. Have a great year and thank you for your commitment to our first-year students!

The Case for Faculty Involvement with First-Year Programs

Making Connections: What Faculty Members Can Do in Their Classrooms and Interactions with Students to Promote Retention

Making Achievement Possible (MAP)

The Case for Faculty Involvement with First-Year Programs

Joe Cuseo
Marymount College

The late Ernest Boyer (1987), writing as then president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, contended that the following "key question" must be asked when assessing the effectiveness of an institution's freshman-orientation program, "Is the orientation program actively supported by the faculty?" (p. 288).

After comprehensively reviewing 25 years of retention research, Pantages and Creedon (1978) concluded that one potentially potent approach to reducing student attrition was for colleges to find new ways to maximize faculty-student interaction during the freshman year, including greater faculty involvement in the orientation program.

The importance of student-faculty contact and front-loading of outstanding teachers and advisors are two oft-cited recommendations in the retention literature (National Institute of Education, 1984; Noel, Levitz, et al., 1985). Empirical evidence supporting this contention is provided by Moore, Peterson, and Wirag (1984), who found that faculty involvement in orientation programs had positive effects on students' academic development. Tammi (1987) also found that participants in a freshman seminar reported significantly more informal contacts with faculty than nonparticipants.

Faculty involvement in the freshman seminar would seem to be an effective and efficient way to simultaneously implement the dual advantages of student-faculty contact and front-loading. Involvement of faculty in freshman orientation should also serve to increase their sensitivity to the significant personal adjustments which adolescents (and returning adult students) must make upon entering college, and enhance faculty's advising skills.

Furthermore, faculty involvement in orientation would improve the program's credibility and elevate the significance of student support and student retention to the level of a collegewide concern—rather than limiting it to an "extracurricular" job performed exclusively by student-affairs professionals (Cuseo, 1991).


Boyer, E. (1987). The undergraduate experience in America. New York: Harper & Row.

Cuseo, J. B. (1991). The freshman orientation seminar: A research-based rationale for its value, delivery, and content. (Monograph No. 4) Columbia, SC: National Resource Center for The Freshman Year Experience.

Moore, B. L., Peterson, D. C., & Wirag, J. R. (1984). Orienting traditional entering students. In M. L. Upcraft (Ed.), Orienting students to college (pp. 39-51). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

National Institute of Education (1984). Involvement in learning. Washington, DC: Author.

Noel, L., Levitz, R., & Associates (1985). Increasing student retention. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Pantages, T. J., & Creedan, C. F. (1978). Studies of college attrition: 1950-1975. Review of Educational Research, 48, 49-101.

Tammi, M. W. (1987). The longitudinal evaluation of a freshman seminar course on academic and social integration. Unpublished dissertation, University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

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Making Connections: What Faculty Members Can Do in Their Classrooms and Interactions with Students to Promote Retention

Making Connections in the Classroom

  1. Send a welcoming e-mail to students before the class begins. Encourage students to use their Ball State e-mail accounts. Tell them a little about yourself or ask them to e-mail you about their goals for the course.
  2. Learn the names of your students as quickly as possible and use students' names in class. Tell students the name and title you'd like them to call you.
  3. Require students to meet with you early in the semester to get to know them personally.
  4. Encourage students to form study groups/learning communities.
  5. During an early session, have students write for five minutes about their hopes, dreams, fears, and expectations of the first year.
  6. Be the first to arrive at class and the last to leave: Go a few minutes early to class and chat with the students. At the end of each class period, ask a different student to stay a few minutes just to talk.
  7. Use index cards to learn something about your students and use the information when conversing with them.
  8. If possible, e-mail or phone a student who is absent.
  9. Get feedback periodically from students about how the class is going. Consider using a variety of informal class assessment strategies.
  10. Lend books and borrow books.
  11. Have students pick up exams/quizzes from you in your office rather than distributing them in class.
  12. Encourage students to establish a "buddy system" for absences, missed work, assignments, etc.
  13. Encourage students who had the first part of the course together to enroll together in the second part.
  14. Create situations where students can help you (get a book from the library, look up some reference, conduct a class research project, etc.).
  15. Circulate around the class as you talk or ask questions.
  16. Set aside special office hours and be there. Encourage students to stop in.
  17. Take pictures of the students and post them in your office or lab in order to come to know them more quickly.

Teaching Strategies to Help Students Be More Successful

  1. Devote time early in the course to helping students better understand the quantity and quality of work involved.
  2. Use active learning strategies (clickers, discussion, etc.) whenever possible. (For example, see link on peer-to-peer instruction developed by Eric Mazur at Harvard University—
  3. Make your expectations and academic policies explicit.
  4. Have a student panel of upper division students talk about what to expect their first year. It can be effective to have students who weren't initially successful talk about their experiences.
  5. Prepare students academically and psychologically for exams: Tell students how to study for your tests and give sample test questions and answers.
  6. Give each student a midterm grade and indicate what the student must do to improve it.
  7. Urge students to talk to you about problems (such as changing work schedules) before dropping the course. It may be possible to make alternate arrangements.
  8. Notify a student's advisor if you note any attendance/performance problems.
  9. Return assignments, exams as quickly as possible with comments.
  10. Have students do two-minute papers about what they learned, what questions they still have, etc.
  11. Continually mention campus resources, such as the Writing and Learning Centers as appropriate. Provide an introduction to these services, have representatives visit class, but also bring up their services often during the semester.
  12. Set up special tutoring/review sessions
  13. Insert skills building into your small groups. For instance, after the first few weeks, talk about note taking, ask students to bring in notes from a class to analyze. Show students what good notes should look like. Give class credit for notes taken in class.
  14. If you assign a research paper, arrange a library orientation to help students learn their way around the library.
  15. Provide opportunities for improvement: If a paper isn't well written, expect students to work with the Learning or Writing Center. Allow students to revise papers for a better grade (but don't announce the opportunity up front or you may inadvertently promote procrastination).
  16. When possible, stress how the course relates to careers. The following activities could be useful for you:
    • In large group, do a career panel, featuring careers related to your topic groups
    • Have guest speakers talk about what they majored in and how they came to where they are now as part of the introduction.
    • Emphasize how college courses prepare them with the skills needed for careers.
    • Have students compose a career audit plan, explaining what they want to accomplish each year and how it will help them achieve their goals.
    • Have students create a plan of courses for the next semester using the catalog and bulletin.

Making Connections outside the Classroom

  1. Socialize with students as your style permits by attending sporting events, walking between classes, saying hello, announcing that you will be eating lunch or having coffee in AJ or the Student Center on a designated day/time.
  2. Volunteer to advise or meet with new students during orientation.
  3. Be friendly and say hello; even if you don't remember a student's name, you will probably remember a face.
  4. Require students to participate in at least one campus activity of their choosing and ask them to write or explain how this helps their college careers. Give points for this. Even better, ask students to take a leadership role in some activity or meeting.

(List adapted from one posted on the FYE Discussion Board [National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition] by Barbara Gaddis, director, Office of Student Retention, University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. If you have been successful with other strategies, please e-mail them to

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Making Achievement Possible (MAP)

The Making Achievement Possible Survey is given to all first-time freshman students in the beginning of their first semester. It is designed to reveal student strengths and talents, as well as to identify areas for further development.

For archived MAP results, see the Office of Academic Assessment & Institutional Research, MAP Survey

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Freshman Connections
Melinda M. Messineo Department of Sociology
Ball State University
Muncie, Indiana 47306

Phone: 765-285-5530
Fax: 765-285-5920
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