Under normal conditions, the first year of college would be a stressful time for Lone Star College-North Harris student Craig Pruitt. He is entering a new environment, new classes, and working with new instructors who don’t know who he is. While Pruitt lives at home with his parents, he still has to manage to eat right, go to bed at a decent hour, prepare homework, and get up on time for class. But Pruitt has some additional stress as well.
Pruitt, 20, is making a second attempt at being a first-year college student. “When I went to college the first time, I had to stop and come home and help my mother after she got sick,” says Pruitt. Additionally, Pruitt’s father had a stroke shortly before his mother became ill. The last thing he needed was a hard-to-navigate first year of college.
Pruitt knows that it will be difficult to maintain a full-time class schedule, work a forty-hour a week job, and help with the care of his parents. But what he does not know is Lone Star College-North Harris was recently selected to be a part of “Foundations of Excellence® (FoE)” to make sure he (and students like him) have a successful first year experience. More than a hundred universities and colleges have memberships to FoE. Their common bond is the desire to transform the way quality services are provided to first year students.
It is widely acknowledged that 1 in 4 freshman drop out in the first year and, by some estimates, nearly half of all college students fail to graduate. According to the Policy Center on the First Year of College, FoE “is designed to study all aspects of the new student experience and to produce a plan for institutional improvement leading to higher levels of student learning and persistence in college.” LSC-North Harris is now a member of the 2009-2010 National Select Cohort of FoE colleges and universities.
“Our interest in applying for the program and partnering with these top universities and colleges is so LSC-North Harris can benchmark itself against some of the very best institutions of higher learning in the nation.” says Dr. Steve Head, LSC-North Harris president. “Our primary mission is the continued pursuit of academic excellence. We are very pleased to have been accepted into this program. This comprehensive evidence-based process will assist us in creating new awareness as we build and expand our infrastructure of student support services.”
Dorothy Dixon, director of the LSC-North Harris FoE initiative, has assembled teams comprised of faculty, staff, and administrators to address the nine dimensions of the FoE plan, which are Philosophy, Organization, Learning, Campus Culture, Transitions, All Students, Diversity, Roles and Purposes, and Improvement.
“The exciting thing about participating in FoE is that there is a new dedication and focus concerning our first year students and their experiences. At the end of the process, we will have an actionable plan to make the first year experience even more fulfilling and successful for our students,” says Dixon.
Part of the evaluation and planning process includes involving the college community, especially the students, in a robust online survey in order to develop a true sense of what the students, both traditional and non-traditional, are experiencing.
“It is very important that we hear the voices of students like Craig,” says Dixon.
Dixon’s background as a remedial math teacher gives her special insight into how important it is to have a plan for success in place for the first year student.
Additionally, Dixon said the Foundation of Excellence developers stressed the importance of having administrative support. “I was very glad that our President, Dr. Steve Head, attended the FoE orientation with us this past summer in Ashville, North Carolina. He was the only president in attendance.”
“LSC-North Harris has the resources, the maturity as an organization, and the willingness to examine our strengths and weaknesses as we move into an elite group of high achievers. Our fundamental goal is to provide our students with the very best experience they can have in their formative first year at LSC-North Harris.”
Dr. Head also notes the uniqueness of a community college participation in FoE. The college’s broad range of students includes those taking college-credit academic-transfer courses as well as students in workforce training programs.
“Both types of academic pursuit are not mutually exclusive; they in fact complement each other. This self-study will help us achieve and maintain high standards by providing our students solutions to the barriers they confront when they first enter into our institution no matter the students educational goal,” says Dr. Head.
For more information about the college’s Foundation of Excellence program, call Dorothy Dixon at 281.765.7933.
LSC-North Harris is located at 2700 W.W. Thorne Drive, one-half mile south of FM 1960 East, between Aldine-Westfield and Hardy Roads. Registration for second start classes is now in progress. For more information about the college, call 281.618.5400 or visit: northharris.lonestar.edu.
Lone Star College System consists of five colleges including LSC-CyFair, LSC-Kingwood, LSC-Montgomery, LSC-North Harris, and LSC-Tomball, six centers, LSC-University Center, LSC-University Park, Lone Star Corporate College, and LSC-Online. With more than 58,000 students in credit classes this fall, LSCS is the largest institution of higher education in the Houston area and third largest community college system in Texas. To learn more visit LoneStar.edu.