Aug. 9, 2007
By Mary Reed and Alison Wayner
After leading students and parents around campus in the oppressive heat and humidity of recent weeks, Precollege staff might justifiably worry about the evaluations they would receive at the end of the day. As it turns out, the nearly 9,000 evaluations for Precollege 2007 have been outstanding. And not just because of the free lemonade.
"It was so hot out that we actually did a virtual campus tour instead of a walking tour," said incoming freshman Rebecca Reiner. "I would have liked to really tour the campus, but I understand why we couldn't."
This year's Precollege sessions began July 23 and wrap up Saturday. The day-and-a-half program gives students and parents the opportunity to meet with faculty, staff, Precollege advisers and other new students. Presenters address a variety of issues pertaining to incoming students, share curriculum information and help students register for classes.
"Precollege is valuable for both students and parents because it introduces them to academic expectations as well as what it means to be a responsible, engaged member of the campus community," said David Descutner, dean of University College and associate provost for undergraduate education.
Descutner attributes Precollege's positive marks to the people involved. "Precollege, simply put, is the most complex enterprise on our campus and the one that best exemplifies the collaborative spirit that makes OU a singular place."
Wendy Weeden Devine, a 1974 alumna who attended Precollege with her daughter, Meghan, this summer, agrees.
"They scored off the charts on all counts," Devine said. "I think the speakers were all entertaining and thorough and were willing to entertain all types of questions."
"You're hoping that your child comes away with the confirmation that they made the right choice and the feeling that they're really excited and can't wait to get there," she said, adding definitively, "Meghan chose the correct school."
The Devine family now has four Bobcats -- Wendy, sons Ben (a 2007 grad) and Ryan (a junior), and now Meghan.
Meghan Devine is among more than 2,000 incoming students enrolled in the 100-plus campus learning communities -- groups of students who take a common set of courses and may live in the same residence hall or on the same green. This number is double the enrollment of last year's learning communities. Although some universities have residence-based learning communities, Ohio University's groups revolve around shared courses and out-of-class academic and cultural opportunities.
"It's all positive because we're putting students together in a learning experience where they can assist each other in the transition from whatever learning institution they came from to Ohio University," said Wendy Merb-Brown, director of learning community programs.
Learning communities provide strong academic benefits, such as higher GPAs on average and increased retention, with another positive side effect being easier course enrollment. "It gives them three courses, and all they have to do is pick out a (fourth) course," said Richard Linn, director of orientation programs. "That's been working beautifully."
Reiner, a member of this fall's Exploring History learning community, confirmed that point: "All I had to add to my schedule was my math course."
Linn reports overall satisfaction among Precollege participants -- both students and parents.
"I'm getting a lot of verbal response in a very positive way -- people coming up to me and saying they really enjoyed this session or that session, and that they're enjoying their student advisers -- that they're very pleased." The written responses are positive as well, he said. "We're looking at a 99 percent approval rating -- overall and individually in every different section," Linn said.
"The program was long but I feel so much more informed than when I went through this with my oldest child at another school," said Bob Fortner who attended Precollege this week with his son Alexander. "I feel like I got a lot of good information about where students can go if they need help with class work, are sick or need assistance with just about anything."
Meghan Devine listed a presentation by Trustee Professor of English Sam Crowl as one of the highlights of her Precollege experience. "We listened to one of the professors my mom actually had, one of the Shakespeare profs," she said. "He did a great job -- the opening act, I guess you could say."
The Precollege advisers also have been receiving high marks. "I was frustrated trying to get classes to fit. Luckily, my guide, Cory (Hoynacke), he was so helpful," Meghan Devine adds. "He sat down and said, 'OK. I'm gonna sit down here and help you figure this out. Don't stress out.'" And they did. Meghan now has a full schedule of classes and will report to Boyd Hall this fall as a member of the Exploring Mass Communications Learning Community.
"The student advisers were great," Fortner concurred. "They were friendly, knowledgeable and really went out of their way to find you answers if they didn't know them right away."
Precollege adviser Craig Leon is encouraged by such comments. "It's nice to hear parents say that I'll make a good teacher some day," he said. "It's pretty flattering, and it means a lot."
Leon often uses his little free time away from Precollege to meet with students who are having trouble figuring out their fall schedules -- even if that means waking up early on a Saturday morning. "I know it seems scary when you're working on your first schedule for your first quarter in college, so I let students know that they can meet with me in the mornings before they are supposed to schedule."
As for the improvements to the program, Descutner said Precollege is doing a pilot this year with the College of Engineering, the Department of Mathematics and the Academic Advancement Center to examine how to move the math placement test out of the Precollege lineup. "Taking the exam during this program is not an optimal condition for performance," he said.
Incoming freshman Melissa McGill said now that she has attended Precollege, she has a lot more to look forward to. "I've been around the campus, I've had fun talking with other new students, I have my schedule, my ID card and now I'm going to go buy my books," McGill said.