Student success pilot program to ease first-year jitters

By Heidi Wicks | Feb. 17, 2012

Embarking upon a university career is an exciting time in many people’s lives. Yet many also feel uneasy about the transition into post-secondary education.

A new program for first-year Memorial students who feel they would like a little extra reassurance -- without missing any academic credit hours -- will do just that. The First-Year Success Program is set to begin in September 2012 as a two-year pilot.

Targeted at students with entrance averages between 70-75 per cent, the program will be housed in the Faculty of Arts and is intended for first-year students who fall within this average and who are not accepted to direct entry programs. Ten courses will be offered over two semesters – just like any standard first-year program.

The pilot emerges from a study conducted by Dr. David Philpott, Faculty of Education, and Susan Cleyle, Queen Elizabeth II Library, who determined that students whose entrance averages fall between 70-75 per cent are especially vulnerable to academic distress that could impact their entire post-secondary experience.

“Seventy-five percent of those students will not have a degree after seven years, and of the 300 students who entered Memorial out of high school in 2010, 29 per cent failed out of their first term,” said Dr. Philpott. “Students with an average of 75 per cent or over had just a 6 per cent fail-out rate.”

The pilot was informed by a pan-university advisory group of more than 60 members as well as in-depth consultations with key informants on Memorial’s campuses, an extensive review of the literature and an exhaustive environmental scan of practices and programs at other universities.

The pilot is a direct response to one of the recommendations arising from the Teaching and Learning Framework with respect to providing support for students experiencing academic challenges.

Dr. Doreen Neville, associate vice-president (academic), and Albert Johnson, Distance Education, Learning and Teaching Support, were co-leads on the Teaching and Learning Framework initiative.

“It was obvious throughout the consultations that informed the Teaching and Learning Framework recommendations that students, faculty and staff very much want to be part of a teaching and learning community that is engaging, committed to discovery, supportive, inclusive, responsive and outcomes-oriented,” said Dr. Neville. “The individuals we consulted with were very eager to make this work and to support our students.”

“The First-Year Success Program was inspired by these values, and developed in an atmosphere of co-operation and consultation,” added Mr. Johnson. “As we move into the pilot phase of the program, we will have an opportunity to act on our desire to support our students and gain further, valuable insight on the best ways to engage and support them.”

When outlining the program’s courses, Ms. Cleyle stated that the program is reflective of an international trend and a growing body of literature that indicates universities not only have a responsibility to provide effective learning experiences for all students, but that they can be successful in redirecting student success.

Program includes core values for university life

University 1010/2020 and the new Introduction to University Writing courses will teach students the skills they require for post-secondary success. The program will also offer English 1080, Psychology 1000/1001 (offered with supplemental instruction as extra support), and math and general electives, depending on the student’s career path and academic standing.

Students will have the option of entering the pilot and avail of both the academic and non-academic supports that will be provided, including smaller class sizes, supplemental instruction and wider access to academic and counselling supports.

For further information on the First Year Success Program, please visit To learn more about Memorial’s services for new students, please visit

For information on the Teaching and Learning Framework initiative, please visit



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