FYWS and Advising get an Upgrade


For the upcoming academic year, incoming freshman will experience a new First-Year Writing Seminar (FYWS) and advising periods that eliminate past issues.

Instead of attending May Registration (May Reg) , students will participate in Summer FAIR (First-year Academic Introduction and Registration) for either 1 out of 2 days in May, or the same in June.

Dr. Nancy Allen, recently hired as director of advising, explained that this change will enrich the freshmen’s first-year experience and make them less stressed about coming to college.

Summer FAIR will be set up in a similar way to May Reg, only with the first-year students already knowing a basis for their schedule, as well as having their advisor picked out. They will have been paired with an advisor based on their intended majors and interests, and will communicate with them before they even step onto campus.

“As incoming students make their first deposit, we will have them complete a survey indicating their intended major, their FYWS preference, and their language preference. It will also direct them to the math placement assessment,” said Dr. Kevin Hartshorn, co-director of FYWS along with Dr. Crystal Fodrey. “We will then build their schedules before the student ever sets foot on campus. If you are undecided, you will indicate some of your interests, and the director of advising will work with you to build a schedule to explore those interests.”

Professors were surveyed last year about what worked and didn’t about the previous FYWS program, prompting the Academic Advising Task Force to take charge to see how these issues could be resolved.

Meg Mikovits, an instructor in the English department, has been on the Task Force since 2015 and also assists with FYWS planning. She detailed how stressful May Reg was for students, and how this new format will allow students to speak with professors they have an existing relationship with.

Fodrey explained the problems that professors and advisors faced as well, saying, “As someone who has done advising twice as part of May Reg, it felt very chaotic because you were trying to do so many different things.”

Hartshorn also explained how the previous program had some issues, including that “first-year students who knew what they wanted to major in were seldom paired with advisors from that discipline. There was also insufficient training for the faculty advisors to help them guide students through the process of considering their academic plan. Having your FYWS instructor as your advisor works well if you are doing well in that class, but the student-advisor relationship can become strained if the student is doing poorly in that class or if there is a mismatch between the student and the course itself.”

For the upcoming semester, 20 faculty members are taking on the role of advisers, with 5 of them crossing over to teach FYWS classes as well. There will also be workshops taught to advisers, to give them a better understanding of the job.

Allen said that even though students will have their schedules picked out before Summer FAIR, they will still have options to add/drop and pick other classes.

Every person on the Task Force, as well as the co-directors of FYWS and Dr. Allen, believe that the new program is going to be a great success for the first-year students. It will alleviate the stress associated with May Reg, and get first-year students acclimated to college life in a more seamless way.