A group of Sacramento State students go all out to greet freshmen and transfers and help guide them through their first year. That effort promotes retention, has helped create a welcoming campus and resulted in recognition at the national level.
First Year Experience (FYE) is a nation-wide program with individual campuses determining their level of involvement. At Sacramento State, the program includes classes, counseling and outreach to get the newcomers acclimated to college life.
The University does such a good job that one of the program’s mentors, junior John Kanemoto, was chosen as a fellow to the FYE National Convention in Atlanta, Ga., Feb. 4-8, getting a scholarship of $400 to cover the conference fees. He attended along with three other Sac State students who went on their own.
What began with about 10 mentors 10 years ago has now grown to 35 mentors who help about 1,100 newcomers by finding out how they’re doing, if they’re having any problems with classes, and accompanying them to places like The WELL.
“We meet the students, see what their likes and dislikes are, then try to pair them with appropriate clubs and activities,” Kanemoto says.
Kanemoto has put a lot of himself into the program, impressing Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Sheree Meyer with his work on the 2009 One Book project for When the Emperor Was Divine. “I was so impressed by his expertise and leadership that I asked him to participate in the One Book panel discussion, along with the author of the book,” Meyer said in her letter supporting Kanemoto’s conference application.
As a fellow to the conference, Kanemoto delivered a presentation on conducting an FYE program on a zero budget, something at which he and his fellow peer mentors are very experienced.
They’ve done a lot of fundraising – getting sponsorships from local businesses and gift cards from merchants to hand out to students as prizes and incentives. FYE also piggy-backed on activities by other campus organizations, setting up tables with FYE information, and co-sponsored a screening of Inception, with the UNIQUE volunteer group.
Another Sac State FYE project that has drawn considerable attention is FYGlee, a music video showing how First Year programs can be promoted. The video can be viewed at www.youtube.com/watch?v=EEUe4UfnyjE.
Kanemoto attributes a lot of the group’s success to the fact it works with both Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, which helps them better cover the campus.
At the conference, Kanemoto discovered that Sacramento State is unique in that approach. “The opportunities we have because Academic Affairs works so closely with Student Affairs is not seen at other campuses,” he says. “Not all campuses have the communication or support we have.”
As long as students such as Kanemoto are involved, the program is sure to continue its success.
For more information on FYE, visit www.csus.edu/acaf/ge/fye/.