University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Innovative First-Year Experience (FYE) Seminars, Collaborative FYE Advisory Cabinet Envision The FYE @ UND

The Office of the Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs is committed to ensuring academic excellence.  Our campus community’s shared Exceptional UND vision challenges us to think bigger, better, and more creatively about UND’s future by enriching student learning, encouraging gathering, facilitating collaboration, expanding our presence, and enhancing our quality of life.

The VPAA Office is setting goals and objectives for strategic initiatives based on national best practices and evidence-based decision making.  Major goals include providing academically rigorous and meaningful student experiences that promote student engagement, learning, and success; facilitating faculty involvement in innovative and collaborative teaching and learning opportunities; and embedding high-impact pedagogical best practices throughout the curriculum.

To advance these goals, the VPAA Office has launched a signature initiative in collaboration with the Division of Student Affairs to provide every first-year student an opportunity to engage in a high-quality experience that promotes engagement, learning, and success: The FYE @ UND.

First-Year Experiences (FYEs) are among the high-impact educational best practices recognized by the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U).  FYEs emphasize critical thinking, communication, active and collaborative learning, information literacy, and scholarly research—the types of intellectual and practical skills that are at the core of UND’s Essential Studies program.  In concert with targeted and intentional student success programs, FYEs facilitate effective transitions from high school to college, encourage student engagement, retention, and persistence to graduation, and benefit diverse students from many backgrounds.

The FYE @ UND encompasses the many meaningful and successful FYEs—both recently created and longstanding—in academic and student success programs throughout UND.  Together these components form an important foundation for many undergraduates’ first year on campus.

Two major strategies envisioned by the VPAA Office are underway to make data- and evidence-based recommendations for The FYE @ UND’s vision, structure, and programmatic sustainability: First-Year (FY) Seminars, and the FYE Advisory Cabinet.

First, in the classroom, the VPAA Office has partnered with faculty and their homes in academic and student affairs to develop First-Year (FY) Seminars, now in their second year of piloting and assessment with coordination by Ryan Zerr of the Department of Mathematics.  These innovative and learning-outcomes-based seminars are developed, taught, and assessed by dedicated instructors selected for their vision and commitment.  All FY Seminars address four goals: supporting a successful transition to college; fostering engagement in the academic life of the university; meeting an academic content goal; and meeting at least one Essential Studies goal.

Experienced faculty also are members of a FY Seminar Program Planning Committee charged with considering FY Seminar sustainability and assessment as part of The FYE @ UND.  The good news?  Preliminary course- and program-based assessment data is quite positive in terms of impact on the student experience.

Fall 2012 FYE Pilot Program offerings are:

  • Great Discoveries in Archaeology, Melinda Leach, Anthropology
  • The Call of Duty: Exploring the Past, Shaping the Future (two sections), Melissa Gjellstad, Languages; Mark Jendrysik, Political Science & Anne Kelsch, History and Office of Instructional Development
  • Marriage in America: For Better or For Worse, Nikki Berg Burin, History
  • From House to Nurse Jackie to WebMD: Diagnosing Health, Yvette Koepke, English
  • Multiethnic Literatures in the United States, Melissa Birkhofer, Languages
  • How Do You Experience College?: Investigating Learning In and Out of the Classroom, Missy Burgess, Student Involvement Office & Casey Ozaki, Teaching & Learning
  • Sustainability Revolution: What Would It Look Like?, Rebecca Romsdahl, Earth System Science & Policy

FY Seminars offered in fall 2011 included Escher to Usher: Patterns in Art and Music, Michele Iiams, Mathematics, and You Are What You Eat: Unpackaging Your Food, Dexter Perkins, Geology & Geological Engineering, Rebecca Simmons, Biology, and Kathryn Yurkonis, Biology.  Deborah Worley, Educational Leadership co-taught a section of The Call of Duty.

Second, to facilitate effective FYE program building and administration across the university, the VPAA and VPSA Offices have convened the FYE Advisory Cabinet, coordinated this fall by Elizabeth Bjerke of the Department of Aviation.  The Cabinet is charged with sharing information about the individual and collective missions of existing FYEs at UND, and considering how best to support, sustain, and highlight a menu of FYEs with an overarching identity that demonstrates UND’s commitment to a first-rate student learning experience.

Cabinet membership for AY 2012-2013 includes representatives from many of UND’s diverse and successful FYEs:

Academic Affairs Representatives
Tami Carmichael, Director, Integrated Studies Program
Brett Goodwin, SCALE-UP Faculty Member
Anne Kelsch, Director, Office of Instructional Development and FYS Faculty Member
Steve Light, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs
Michele Iiams, FYE Seminar Faculty Member
Sally Pyle, Director, Honors Program
Tom Steen, Director, Essential Studies Program
Ryan Zerr, FYE Seminar Coordinator

Student Affairs Representatives
Lisa Burger, Assistant Vice President Admissions and Financial Aid
Malika Carter, Director, Multicultural Student Services Center
Cassie Gerhardt, Assistant Dean of Students for Student Involvement & Leadership
Shari Nelson, Associate Director Student Success Center
Linda Neuerburg, Assistant Director, American Indian Student Services
Kristi Okerlund, Family & Student Programming Coordinator
Stacey Peterson, Success Courses Coordinator
Cindy Spencer, Residence Life and Education Director

All of the participating faculty, staff, and students—and the units that support them—are providing extraordinary time, talent, and energy to exceptional teaching and learning as well as to program building and assessment.

If you’d like to know more about how to get involved—including the possibility of teaching an FY Seminar—please contact Steve Light, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs, at

Together, we will create an Exceptional UND!

—Steve Light, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs,