Faculty member presenting to new students at orientation

Info for Faculty/Staff

What is First-Year Experience (FYE)?

The FYE is not a single class, program, or even a series of programs; it represents a comprehensive, coordinated, and wide-reaching effort designed to support first-year student success (Hankin & Gardner, 1996; Koch & Gardner, 2006; Upcraft & Gardner, 1989; Young & Keup, 2019).

In four decades of higher education research, the First-Year Experience (FYE) is promoted as both a philosophy and movement for improving first-year college student transitions (Hankin & Gardner, 1996; Upcraft & Gardner, 1989). In an effort to improve student success, involvement, and transitions into postsecondary education, colleges and universities have instituted many curricular and co-curricular efforts that can be designated as FYE programs. At UNLV, these coordinated efforts empower new students to personalize an FYE that best helps them navigate difficult transitions; connect with people, communities and happenings on campus; and set themselves up for a successful rise into their second year.

Mission, Vision, Goals, and Outcomes

Mission: The First-Year Experience (FYE) provides seamless, integrated and comprehensive support to empower new students’ personal and academic growth. FYE directly impacts student achievement by creating academic and co-curricular pathways for students to establish key relationships, connect with campus resources, and reach their educational goals through graduation and beyond.

Vision: All new UNLV students will engage with and personalize a meaningful, high-impact, research-driven First-Year Experience that positively impacts their holistic success.

Overarching Goals of FYE

  • FYE will provide opportunities for early, intentional and ongoing connections supporting a successful new student transition to the UNLV community and the college experience.
  • FYE will provide students the opportunity to connect to and demonstrate knowledge of campus resources essential for their overall academic and social success.
  • FYE will support the development of academic growth and development for overall success.
  • FYE will support the development of personal growth and development for overall success.
  • FYE will provide opportunities for students to explore and build competence in academic and career exploration

Student Learning Outcomes

By engaging with and personalizing their own FYE:

  • Students will employ inquiry, critical thinking, and communication skills to clarify and meet college-level academic expectations
  • Students will reflect on the ways personal values and identities shape their perspectives, goals, and relationships with others.
  • Students will develop strategies to promote academic and personal wellbeing.
  • Students will form positive relationships with peers, staff, and faculty that support their career and academic goals.
  • Students will engage across cultural differences and evaluate diverse perspectives.
  • Students will be comfortable utilizing academic and co-curricular campus resources. Students will participate in campus experiences that enhance their sense of connection to a community at UNLV.

FYE Theory & Research

At UNLV, student success is measured by factors beyond academic performance, retention, and graduation. We want all of our students to thrive, which is contingent upon each student’s personal, academic, and interpersonal engagement with curricular and cocurricular educational opportunities (Schreiner, 2013).

It is not enough for colleges and universities to simply increase the array of educational offerings aimed at first-year students. The FYE is not necessarily improved by the amount of programs, but by the level of institutional coordination, integration, and fidelity of implementation across them. Because first-year student success is not easily localized or specific to one functional area on campus (Young & Keup, 2019), efforts to bring newcomers from the periphery of the academy toward greater, more meaningful participation must include a cohesive, comprehensive, and campuswide mix of curricular and cocurricular initiatives (Barefoot et al., 2005; Greenfield et al., 2013; Hankin & Gardner, 1996; Upcraft & Gardner, 1989).

Moreover, the FYE represents a systematic onboarding process for first-year students that communicates a positive, assets-based approach grounded in respect between educators and new students (Hankin & Gardner, 1996). A well-coordinated and intentionally designed FYE represents a reversal of “a several hundred-year tradition of harassing new arrivals through intimidating rites of passage” (Hankin & Gardner, 1996, p. 10) and an explicit commitment by the institution to be a student ready campus. McNair et al., (2016) describe in a recent Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) publication that student ready institutions as those that take initiative and prepare for the students who are entering their institutions rather than bemoaning the students coming to campus are not academically or emotionally “ready” for college.

Theoretical Foundations

  • Astin (1984) student involvement theory
  • Roger (1995) diffusion of innovation
  • Schlossberg (1989) marginality and mattering
  • Schreiner (2010) thriving
  • Museus (2014) culturally engaging campus environments (CECE) model
  • Theory of Change

Assessment of the FYE & Impact Data at UNLV

UNLV has a moral and ethical commitment to becoming a student-ready campus and reaching the goals of the Top Tier Strategic plan in learning, retention, and graduation outcomes. Creating a comprehensive and integrated First-Year Experience at UNLV will enable the campus to directly align resources with the Student Achievement Goal of recruiting, retaining, and graduating a diverse body of students through innovative learning experiences, access to mentoring and research opportunities and a vibrant campus community. Specifically, the objectives within the student achievement goal area that will be impacted by an enhanced First-Year Experience include first-year retention, co-curricular engagement, student-to-advisor ratio, as well as the student learning outcomes of written communication and critical thinking.

By focusing on building co-curricular experiences that connect students with faculty and staff, addressing the needs of historically underserved students, and connecting classroom learning with career and development we expect to see increases in student learning outcomes, retention, and student satisfaction.

Core Experiences

Starting at their New Student Orientation, students are introduced to a five-part model, encouraging them to Connect, Explore, Grow, Thrive, and Believe in their FYE.

FYE Connection Award

The FYE Connection Award incentivizes student participation in key FYE programs and events.

Your Role in FYE as a UNLV Faculty or Staff Member

  • Reinforce the messaging and concept of “FYE” with students in and out of the classroom
    • Starting with New Student Orientation, students are introduced to “their FYE” as an opportunity to engage with the people, events, and opportunities that best fit them. Reinforce this idea by encouraging students to reflect on their goals and definition of success, and share FYE opportunities with them that align with those goals.
  • Request an FYE presentation for your Classroom or Program and Events
    • Contact the FYE Team (fye@unlv.edu) with the details regarding your presentation request and a member of our team will reach out to you shortly. While we aim to accommodate all requests, scheduling is based on availability.
  • Stay connected to ongoing FYE updates
    • Contact the FYE Team (fye@unlv.edu) to be added to the “Monday Connect” email listserv and/or the faculty & staff FYE WebCampus shell. These resources include ongoing updates about student-facing and faculty/staff-facing FYE opportunities.
  • Integrate FYE programs, events, and resources into coursework and co-curricular activities outside of the classroom
    • Add FYE Connection Award experiences to syllabi and co-curricular structures. These include UNLV tradition and milestone events like:
      • CREATES & Welcome Day
      • Welcome Weeks
      • UNLV Premier
      • Homecoming Week
      • First 100 Days Celebration
      • Welcome to Spring and Academic Achievement Recognition
      • Celebration
      • Rebels Rising Up Day Celebration
    • Add elements of the annual “Common Read” to curricular and co-curricular experiences in the first year
    • Help students build an FYE “Success Team.” Establish expectations for frequent connection with faculty, staff, advisors, Peer Mentors, RAs (for those living on campus), and other supports
    • Establish expectations for students to get involved with at least one involvement activity in their first year (Registered Student Organizations, campus traditions and events)
  • Build awareness and knowledge of UNLV campus resources to share with students when they meet challenges