New Student Experience: Our Next Big Idea

By Christina Hardin, Director, New Student Experience

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In 2012, Valencia embarked on a quest to find “Our Next Big Idea” that would guide our work as a part of the Quality Enhancement Plan, and through this effort, emerged the New Student Experience. In the next four issues of The Juice, we will feature a series of articles that provide an update on the New Student Experience.

New Student Experience Vision Statement:

Valencia College provides a coordinated experience for all new students. The New Student Experience includes a required credit-earning course and provides an extended orientation to college, integrated student success skills and career and academic advising, which includes the development of an individualized education plan. We envision that the New Student Experience will result in curricular and co-curricular student engagement, leading to the successful completion of the first 15 college-level credits at Valencia.

After a thorough and collaborative 18-month process that only could have been accomplished in Valencia style, the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) and the New Student Experience (NSE) is underway.

In the design of the QEP, it was important to ensure the connection to the College’s past. During development, the Plan built upon Valencia’s history, institutional priorities and practices, with specific focus on Valencia’s Big Ideas.

Beginning in spring 2012, faculty, staff and students entered into an exploration phase working toward identifying Valencia’s next “Big Idea.” A series of reading circle discussions, collegewide conversations and brainstorming sessions led to four emerging themes:

1. Student Purpose – Students with some sense of their purpose in life and in college are more likely to be engaged, to learn and to succeed in college.

2. Student Learning – More than any other time in history, student learning can happen anywhere and at any time. Changes in the conditions for student learning require that we think differently about how we engage students in the learning process.

3. Students Need Navigation – To be successful, Valencia students not only need an educational plan, but they also need clear and specific directions for navigating the demands of college.

4. The New Student Experience – To support learning, students need a holistic first-year experience that is academically and socially engaging, while providing connection and direction.

During fall 2012, approximately 280 faculty and staff members from across the College met during the QEP Kick-off Event to further explore and unpack each theme as it related to Valencia and its students. The recurring proposition within the Big Idea Groups was that Valencia students need a coordinated first-year experience to guide them toward the successful completion of their first 15 college-level credits at Valencia, and to a successful college career that would result in degree completion.

This led to the creation of the NSE Vision Statement and the plan to develop a comprehensive NSE. The NSE plan was approved in March 2013 by faculty, staff and College administrators who attended an open, collaborative, decision making summit.

Guiding the work of the NSE are six student-centered outcomes, The Six Ps:

1. Purpose: Students will create a personal purpose statement that outlines and articulates their values, goals, interests and strengths in relation to their educational and career aspirations.

2. Pathway: Students will choose an academic program aligned with their educational/career goals, interests, strengths and values.

3. Plan: Students will design an education plan that includes goals for learning and a financial plan.

4. Preparation: Students will apply college success skills.

5. Personal Connection: Students will demonstrate effective communication skills with diverse groups.

6. Place: Students will demonstrate awareness of college support systems.

The New Student Experience will focus on four major areas that provide a consistent, yet adaptive and personal experience for our learners’ first college year, each of which will directly infuse or embed The Six Ps.

These areas of focus are an introduction to Valencia, common curricular experiences, co-curricular engagement activities and progression to degree readiness. Over the next five years these initiatives will be brought to scale through the development of the NSE.

For more information about the NSE, please contact Christina Hardin, director, New Student Experience at Chardin1@valenciacollege.edu or extension 3898.

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