Why Freshman Seminar and College Student Development 101

Uploaded by JoshMartinVodcasts on 25.01.2012

‘Why Freshman Seminar & College Student Development 101’ Presentation
Why Freshman Seminar
Are you wondering why you are required to take this one-credit course and why it’s
required for graduation? If you are, don’t worry, you aren’t the first and won’t
be the last. According to two researchers in the field of higher education, Mary Stuart
Hunter and Carrie W. Linder, “the first-year seminar…[exists] in some form on nearly
74 percent of U.S. [college] campuses” (2005). So, if you were feeling like you are the only
one forced to take this course, don’t worry, you aren’t.
But, why do so many colleges have it? What purpose does it serve?
If you are a “traditional” college student, you have started your college career during
the fall semester immediately after your high school graduation. This represents a time
of transition from what your instructor assumes was a highly structured time in your life
to what is now a more loosely structured time in your life. Think about it: have you heard
a bell since you’ve arrived on the SUNY Adirondack Campus? If you are an online student,
unless you set an alarm yourself, is there some external stimulus (the sound of a bell,
a parent or teacher) directing you to log-on and do the work; directing you to get up,
drive to campus, attend class on-time, do the homework, write the papers and also balance
other responsibilities at work and / or at home?
While many of you may be accustomed to a high level of self-responsibility and personal
ownership over your life, some of you may be experiencing this level of responsibility
for the first time. Regardless of this and your traditional or non-traditional student
status, this is a new time in your life and this course is designed to assist you in navigating
the SUNY Adirondack aspects of this new time. What services does the college offer, what
can you do to be successful here and when you transfer to a new school, what do you
want to be when you grow up and what do you want to be after that? This course is designed
to provide you with information, a chance to meet others in the same boat, and at the
end of ten weeks, hopefully have you feeling more confident and comfortable than you are
now (or at least not feeling any less so).
But, does it work? Is sitting in this class once a week or taking part in these activities
online going to help you? Good questions and believe me they get asked a lot. In fact,
according to the literature on first year students and freshman seminar courses, “administrators,
faculty, policymakers, curriculum committees, and even students want proof that first-year
seminars work” (Barefoot & Gardner, 1998 cited in Hunter & Linder, 2005).
The answer is a little complex. The reality is that research on the outcomes of first-year
seminar courses is mixed (Hunter & Linder, 2005). Having done some research myself on
freshman seminar outcomes here at SUNY Adirondack, I can tell you that there was a positive relationship
between those that successfully completed freshman seminar and those who meet their
goals such as earning an Associates Degree or transferring to another college to earn
a Bachelors Degree. However, one can make arguments for and against, regardless of the
outcomes of studies or the personal anecdotes of instructors.
Here is the bottom-line on the matter: statistically speaking, if you did well in high school,
you will probably continue to do well in college (Rosenbaum). This course may provide you the
opportunity to sharpen your skills, learn a few new techniques, receive interesting
food-for-thought and meet some new people.
If you didn’t do that well in high school, statistically speaking, you aren’t going
to do that well in college (Rosenbaum). However, if you want to do well and are motivated to
put in the work, this course in conjunction with other services available at SUNY Adirondack
can assist you in meeting your goals. In fact, as part of this course, you can choose to
spend three weeks on nothing but the topic of goals and goal setting, so stay tuned.
Remember my attendance policy statement, borrowed from Hunter S. Thompson: buy the ticket, take
the ride. You’re here. For some of you, the benefits will be noticeable and obvious
and for others it may take a few more weeks to find that worthwhile aspect of the experience.
Keep seeking it. No matter what, don’t let statistics be your destiny.
College Student Development 101
Information in the following portion of this presentation is adapted from Chickering and
Reisser, 1993, as cited in Evans, Forney, and Guido-DiBrito, 1998.
Did you know that, as a group, college students have been studied for quite some time? It’s
true. There are research studies that have been conducted for years trying to explain
various aspects of the college experience, and those life experiences outside of college,
using college students as research subjects.
For our purposes this week, we are going to focus on one theory of college student development:
Chickering’s Theory of Identity Development. Now, I’m gonna be straight with you: when
I talk about theory, I have a tendency to get a little carried away. Let’s make a
deal: I’ll do my best to control myself and not go totally nerd on you if you promise
to let me know if I’ve completely lost you. Deal? So that I can continue, I’ll assume
To help you, let me introduce the journal assignment for this week now, since it will be based on the rest
of this presentation.
First, you will answer the following questions about yourself: (1) Why have you decided to
attend SUNY ADK; (2) What do you want to be doing in two years after completing SUNY ADK,
in five years, and ten years; (3) Describe a personal attribute that you currently have
that will help you attain these goals; (4) Describe an attribute that you want to have
or further develop in order to help you attain these goals.
Next, you will write about your reaction to the ‘Why Freshman Seminar and College Student
Development’ presentation where you address the following questions: (1) why do colleges,
including SUNY ADK, think that Freshman Seminar type courses are important; (2) do you think
Freshman Seminar should be a required course; (3) name at least one vector of development
that Freshman Seminar-type courses are designed to address; and (4) which vector of development
do you think you are in and why.
What I’m going to do now is provide you with some information about the theory, list
the seven vectors, and provide you with some information about each vector. Remember, you
aren’t going to be quizzed on this; I’m not expecting you to become an expert on this
or any other theory. What you are going to do for the assignment is tell me about yourself,
what you think or how you feel this new information applies to you.
Alright, onto Chickering.
Chickering’s seven vectors can be described as being a psychosocial theory, in that it
attempts to explain how college students develop a sense of identity and how that sense of
identity can be impacted by the campus environment they are in. So, this theory is attempting
to explain how students develop, not physically, but rather mentally, socially and emotionally
during the college years and the impact their college campus environment can have on this
With me so far? If not, that’s alright. Use the written assignment as a way to start
flushing this out. Again, I’m not expecting you to become an expert on theory; I’m interested
in learning what you think about it and how it may apply to you.
Based on several research studies conducted in the 1960’s and 1990’s, Chickering proposed
that college students experience seven different vectors of development. Think of them as stages;
however, unlike most stage theories, students can exist in one or more vectors at one time
and may cycle through one or more vectors during their college experience.
The Seven Vectors are:
Developing Competence: students developing the necessary intellectual, physical and interpersonal
or social competence or skills needed to navigate their new, college environment, characterize
this first vector.
Managing Emotions: a students’ ability to recognize, accept, express and control their
emotions in socially acceptable ways characterize the second vector.
Moving Through Autonomy Toward Interdependence: a students’ ability to move from being dependent
on others, especially authority figures, for constant assistance and support while avoiding
the other extreme of being completely independent and not recognizing the need for assistance
and the role that mentors can play in their growing maturity characterizes this third
Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships: a student’s ability to stretch beyond their
current comfort zone by learning more about different cultures, people and the ability
to build healthy, lasting relationships characterize this fourth vector.
Establishing Identity: in this vector, all of the various components that make up the
student begin to merge as an accepted, complete whole. Various parts start to come together
such as who the student is as an individual, including their body image and appearance;
who the student is as a member of different groups: male/female, ethnicity and cultural
heritage, sexual orientation, political views and affiliations; also, who the student is
as a member of a campus community and the broader, global community. Think of this vector
as how the pieces of a puzzle fit to form a complete picture; here, the individual is
examining each piece and determining how they fit.
Developing Purpose: this sixth vector includes making and committing to various goals such
as career, personal ambitions, interests and hobbies; finding those things in life that
have meaning and devoting time, energy and resources to them. Think of this as a long
period of spring cleaning, where the student is deciding what’s worth holding onto, what’s
worth further exploration and what’s worth letting go of.
Developing Integrity: this final vector is characterized by three distinct parts: humanizing
values, personalizing values, and developing congruence. In this vector, a students values,
beliefs, thoughts and actions come together and that student is able to find a balance
between their self-interest and social responsibility.
Feeling overwhelmed yet? If not, good and if yes, that’s ok. Again, use the written
assignment as a way to work through these concepts and piece them together.
A review of the directions for the written assignment can be found in the ‘Lesson One
/ Week Two’ folder in ANGEL.
Contact Information
If you have any questions you can email me at martinj@sunyacc.edu
Evans, N.J., Forney, D.S., & Guido-DiBrito, F. (1998). Student development in college:
Theory, research, and practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Hunter, M.A., & Linder, C.W. (2005). First-year seminars. In M.L. Upcraft, J.N. Gardner, B.O.
Barefoot & Associates (Eds.), Challenging & supporting the first-year student: A handbook
for improving the first year of college (pp. 275-291). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Rosenbaum, J.E. (n.d.). It's time to tell the kids: if you don't do well in high school,
you won't do well in college (or on the job). Retrieved from http://www.aft.org/newspubs/periodicals/ae/spring2004/rosenbaum.cfm