UCF is partnering in a new national project called Re-Imagining the First Year of College that is designed to increase student success, particularly for students who are low-income, first-generation or racial minorities.

The project is an initiative of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities because the first year of college is generally when universities experience the greatest loss of students.

“As I think back on my first-year experiences, I can’t help but to think about our students and their first-year experiences here at UCF,” said Maribeth Ehasz, vice president for the Division of Student Development and Enrollment Services. “I often wonder: Are we encouraging students to dream big, learn and explore without boundaries, and reach for the stars? Are we creating memorable ‘aha’ moments during their first year of college?”

Forty-four of the association’s institutions are working together for three years to develop first-year experiences to enhance the quality of learning, increase retention rates and improve student success.

Ehasz and Elizabeth A. Dooley, vice provost of the Division of Teaching and Learning and dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies, will lead UCF’s participation in the project. They formed an internal action team overseen by DeLaine Priest, associate vice president of Student Success; Mark Gumble, assistant vice president for learning support service; Kimberly Schneider, interim assistant dean for the College of Undergraduate Studies; and Erin Butler, director of the First Year Experience.

“We want our students to be active participants in their learning experiences and it starts in their first year,” Dooley said. “The RFY project provides UCF with the opportunity to energize its curriculum and develop strategies to enhance student-learning outcomes. We want our students to create their path to academic success and to thrive in their personal, civic and professional lives.”

The five goals of the program are to reduce the time to attain a degree, minimize the number of attempted student credit hours, incorporate student-success measures through program review, promote scholarly engagement with student success, and increase retention and progression rates for first-time-in-college and transfer students.

Ehasz said the program has already identified several strategies, including creating a collaborative network of UCF support services and providing personalized pathways to success for each student.

“As UCF’s student body continues to grow and become more diverse, we embrace this opportunity to reimagine the full student-learning experience, from the first-year experience to undergraduate degree completion,” Ehasz said.