Newman University empowers graduates to transform society, and Traditions and Transitions (T&T) is just one of the many programs helping students do so from the very start of their college career.
T&T is a freshman seminar designed to improve students’ academic success and help in their social transition to college life.
In 1998, David Shubert, dean of arts and sciences, and Cheryl Golden, director of international studies, visited the Center of First Year Experience at the University of South Carolina. They returned to the Newman campus with ideas of how to create a similar first-year experience that would benefit Newman students.
Several individuals at Newman helped make the idea a reality, and by 1999, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Rosemary Niedens officially took over the program.
“The thing that is so unique about T&T compared to other places is that it is a blend of academic and student affairs,” Niedens said. “Only 20 to 30 percent of programs around the country are like this, and I think that’s why it’s been successful — it’s very helpful that student and academic affairs have that relationship.”
All incoming students are divided into T&T classes taught by various faculty members. For every faculty member who teaches the class, there are one or two upperclassman student facilitators who aid in group discussions, activities and projects.
The class meets once every week throughout the semester — each week focusing on its own objective. Some course material may be team-taught by both the faculty and facilitator, while other weeks are taught individually. This gives student facilitators the opportunity to connect with the freshmen class and discuss questions that may be better answered from a student perspective.
“The student facilitators are important parts of this effort in both delivering course content and serving as great role models and friends,” said Newman President Noreen M. Carrocci, Ph.D., who teaches one of the classes.
T&T students learn to locate the various campus resources, navigate the course catalog, become familiar with the Newman Jetstream and Blackboard websites, create a four-year plan and much more.
“The goal of T&T has always been to help students broaden their experience outside of the typical classroom context,” student facilitator Annie Dang said. “It is both a way to integrate freshmen into the college experience, but also to help them think critically about their future goals and pursuits.”
Each year the theme of T&T is based off a particular reading — usually, a nonfiction historical book that involves exploring issues of the past that are still relevant today. Around mid-semester, a common reading event invites the author of the book to speak in an interactive setting with students, faculty and facilitators.
As a class, each T&T group is also required to organize and plan their own service event to give back to the community. Past classes have crafted blankets for young children, made care packages and volunteered at nonprofit organizations around the Wichita area.
“I think the service projects are great for the freshmen,” student facilitator Lauren Spencer said. “They give students a taste of Newman’s values and helps them to start making an impact right away.”
Extensive research shows that courses like T&T maximize students’ potential in academic success as well as the social transition to collegiate life, Niedens said.
She added, “As long as T&T continues to benefit our students’ in their first year of undergraduate education, we will continue to make this program available in the years to come.”