You could consider Fort Lewis College’s new first-year student micro-course program a sort of “FLC 101,” since it’ll help new students get familiar and comfortable with their new academic home. Instead, the First Year Launch program is listed in the course catalog as “FLC100.” Close enough.
Beginning Fall 2019, First Year Launch aims to boost student success by sparking new students’ intellectual curiosity while growing a sense of belonging and community. The course is also an opportunity for faculty and staff to welcome students to campus by mentoring them on campus resources and community connections.
The program requires all new students (excluding transfer students) to participate in a one-credit course spanning the first half of the Fall semester. The course's topics vary widely, combining each instructor's interest in a particular area of inquiry with a common core of student-success related and co-curricular activities aimed at getting students quickly prepared for and engaged in FLC’s academic culture.
“The idea is to have faculty and staff share their passions, getting students excited about the life of the mind while connecting them to the community we all love through whatever topic they love,” says Assistant Professor of Political Science Paul DeBell, who was part of the team that developed the First Year Launch. He will be teaching a course titled “Fighting Polarization,” in which students explore political psychology and practice strategies for having better debates about the issues they care about.
"When we look at the survey data of our students, they come here because we do this unique amount of experiential learning. That experiential learning also leads to our campus community's close connections, from students doing research with faculty and getting to know their faculty," says DeBell. "This program is about that. From the start, you're going to have a faculty or staff member who you'll come to know super well, you're going to have this small community that you'll get to know super well, and you'll get to know campus super well."
“ The goal is to help students become connected and successful members of the college community, by closely mentoring students and having them experience learning as an inquiry-based process of discovery. We just want students to fall in love with learning.
Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Julie Love
The First Year Launch program prepares FLC students for undergraduate success through experiencing learning as a community-based process of inquiry and discovery. Class sizes will be small, around 15, and courses will be taught by both faculty and eligible staff – including the College's deans and President Stritikus himself. Topics will range from "The Environmental Geography of Guitars" to "Identity Awareness: Becoming You," and from "Queer Culture, 1969 – 2019" to "The Seas of Purgatory," in which students will explore the geologic evidence of tropical seas 300 million years ago where the nearby Purgatory Resort now stands.
Students in the program, whatever the topic of their particular section, will also participate in on-campus and community cultural activities, as well as engage in informative trainings and discussions. Each section will conclude with some sort of reflective independent project that encourages students to express themselves and display what they've learned.
"It's as much about learning as it is about developing a sense of, 'Hey, I'm now a Skyhawk! And my school cares about me!'" says Associate Vice President of Student Affairs Julie Love. Love is instructing a class titled "Purpose and Passion," which explores various definitions of success and how college can be a catalyst for personal achievement. "The goal is to help students become connected and successful members of the college community, by closely mentoring students and having them experience learning as an inquiry-based process of discovery. We just want students to fall in love with learning."