The first-year journey for a new student

How Davenport helps map a path for first-year student success

Jodi Hicks, director of First Year Experience, becomes a familiar face to most new Panthers at Davenport University. Her role is vital in coordinating a smooth transition into college for first-year students.

“I connect students with each other, campus resources, staff and faculty, and sometimes even employers,” she said. “My goal is to support and encourage them to be successful here at school and to eventually be successful in their careers.”

Hicks speaks at freshman orientation, teaches a first-year seminar class and oversees convocation – the official academic welcome to Davenport University.

Showing students how to shine

Orientation is a large part of welcoming new students to the university. It’s an opportunity to address the fear and anxieties some students experience when leaving for college, Hicks said. DU students participate in activities, break-out sessions and get information designed to create a positive start at DU.

Hicks is known for sharing the five keys to being STARS in college:

  1. Study
  2. Time management
  3. Admit you own it
  4. Redefine who you are
  5. Serving others

Lastly, she encourages students to help each other succeed in college.

“A single star shines bright but stars together shine brighter in a constellation and if we are all stars, we’ll all shine brighter together,” she said.

Acing a college career

The first year seminar class — Achieving Career and Education Success — helps students build a solid foundation.

ACES, as it’s known by the students, is a unique offering by Davenport that helps students identify learning styles, discover potential career paths and develop critical thinking. By the end of the three-credit course, students will design a personal education plan and know where to find the DU resources they need to succeed.

“Students need to build confidence and a good feeling about who they are and why they are here,” Hicks said. “The class helps students figure out how they learn best and then school becomes a lot easier for them.”

DU’s small class sizes, in both ACES and other courses, give students the opportunity to better connect with each other, faculty and staff. Hicks sees it as an advantage for her, too.

“I wouldn’t have that opportunity at a big university,” she said. “I know all of my students’ names within the first week. In a classroom of 100, I would not be able to do that. I can really make a difference for a single student.”

Giving students the keys to success

In their first year, students are assigned a common read. Later on, a speaker — often the author — will present on campus about the topic covered in the book.

“All first-year students read the same book and this offers opportunities for people to have conversations about it,” she said.

In previous years, students have read My Orange Duffel Bag, Grit to Great and The Other Wes Moore. This fall, they are reading Habitudes for the Journey: The Art of Navigating Transitions by Tim Elmore.

Hicks also has initiated Alpha Lambda Delta, a first-year honor society that honors students who have received a 3.5 GPA or above in their first year of study. There are more than 200 students that belong to ALD at DU.

At the end of the journey for each class, Hicks is there for their final moments as a Davenport student. At commencement, she is able to wish them luck as they enter their careers.




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