Course Gives Students Greater Chance of Success

headshot of Scott Peska
Scott Peska, Dean of Students

At Waubonsee Community College, our vision statement says that our success is defined by the dreams we help shape, the opportunities we help design and the futures we help create. This year, that vision is carried out in the form of a class tailored to give new students the tools they need to succeed on campus and beyond.

In August, Waubonsee welcomed new students with 14 sections of COL 100: Great Beginnings in College and Life.  The title of the course may sound bold, but research confirms its potential power. Institutional and national data from colleges, both two-year and four-year, demonstrate that first-year seminars, such as this course, are an important tool to enhance student persistence toward graduation.

This new course comes after more than a year of careful planning, and is the answer to a recommendation from Waubonsee’s Foundations of Excellence Self-Study. A dedicated group of faculty and administrators met throughout 2014-2015 to establish the format and criteria. To do that, they looked to a study from the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition and incorporated its key course elements: helping students develop academic skills, develop a connection with the institution, and provide an orientation to various campus resources and services.

We hope to see this course grow each semester, as an overwhelming amount of research on first-year seminars connects positive gains in student persistence, higher GPA, an increase in the number of attempted and completed credit hours, greater student engagement, and an increase in college completion. The COL 100 course is limited to 20 students per class, as that intimacy strengthens bonds among peers and faculty. One assignment common among all the sections is that students must meet with their instructor outside of regular instruction time. These conversations help students locate faculty offices and develop a positive rapport with faculty.

Unique to Waubonsee’s course is the presence of volunteer student facilitators to assist faculty. Peers have a great influence on the educational experience. These student facilitators are leaders in clubs and organizations with a 2.5 or better GPA. As role models for new and returning students, they will volunteer about 45 hours by the end of the semester. This selfless commitment to serve others and help new students succeed is just one thing that sets Waubonsee's COL 100 course apart from those at other community colleges.  

This introductory course provides students with knowledge and skills that will be useful throughout their college experience, and throughout life. Classroom discussions and activities include setting and achieving goals, strengthening study strategies, managing and prioritizing time commitments, and working with individuals from different backgrounds. We’re excited about this step in our ongoing quest to help our students shape their lives and achieve their dreams. Waubonsee’s COL 100 has the opportunity to stretch far beyond the classroom and reaffirms the college’s reputation for being a place where futures take shape. 

Scott Peska is Waubonsee’s Dean of Students.