First-Year Experience

In the February edition of Edubytes, the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology together with the Centre for Student Involvement and Careers, Health Promotion and Education and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre hosted the First-Year Experience Educators Symposium. We wanted to dedicate an edition of Edubytes to this topic.

Our three guest editors: Dr. Kari Anna Marken, an educational designer at the Centre for Student Involvement and Careers; Dr. Michael James Griffin, associate professor at the Departments of Philosophy and Classical, Near Eastern and Religious Studies, academic director of First-Year Experience, and professor in residence at the Totem Park Residence; and Dr. Fok-Shuen Leung, senior instructor at the Department of Mathematics, academic director of First-Year Experience and professor-in-collegia at UBC Collegia will be exploring the topic of the first-year experience.

The three of us spend ample time thinking about the first-year cohort from a collection of unique perspectives. We are both humbled and challenged by the newest members of our scholarly community.

To a first-year student, the academy can be a mysterious, startling place, with its dialects and rituals. The campus and university systems are, in themselves, a complicated curriculum. As university educators, we often focus on sharing what we know about how university ‘works.’ Many studies, blog posts and conferences do the same, emphasizing the need to explicitly introduce first-year students to the culture of the academy and respond to the critical question: What do students need to know about us—the scholarly academic community?

In this edition of Edubytes, we propose a pair of complementary, less-explored questions: What do we—university educators—know about first-year students? Furthermore, what can we do about their experience? We share links to videos, podcasts, blog posts and articles that have sparked our imagination and informed our conversations over the past few years.

Our first recommendation, by Kari, is a podcast about (and partly presented by) teenagers, who make up an enormous proportion of the first-year cohort at UBC. Our second recommendation, by Michael, is a set of resources about the power and role of storytelling in the lives of students. Our third recommendation, by Fok, is an essay about the role that stories can play in the life of the whole academic community.

Recommended Readings & Listenings

Dr. Kari Anna Marken

Since 2012, I have worked on the design of first-year programs such as JumpStart, Collegia, and Profs-in-Space. Like many of our first-year students at UBC, I spend two hours a day commuting on the bus or my bike. When on the bus, I listen to podcasts, and this episode invites the listener to think about ~95% of the cohort of ~7,200 UBC direct-entry first-year students. Why? According to UBC demographic data, ~95% of first-year students are between 17-19 years-old: teenagers.

Dr. Michael James Griffin

Shared acts of storytelling can be deeply therapeutic for adolescents and young adults. In the first year of university, a wise and respectful emphasis on exchanging stories is proven to facilitate learning and engagement, both in the classroom and in peer advising. Moreover, as our UBC colleague Jo-ann Archibald (Q’um Q’um Xiiem) points out, storywork has educated “the heart, mind, body, and spirit” in this place since the beginning.

Dr. Fok-Shuen Leung

In “Mathematics as Medicine,” Ed Doolittle explores his identity as a mathematician and Mohawk. The challenge, he concludes, is to avoid simplifying the complex—a tipi is not a cone!—and to ask instead how mathematics can be pulled onto the rich landscape of Indigenous storytelling.

Enjoyed reading about first year experience? Learn about other topics we covered in the February 2020 edition by reading the complete Edubytes newsletter. To view past issues, visit the Edubytes archive.

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