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OHIO First-Year Initiatives

OHIO First-Year Initiatives

OHIO First-Year Conference 2024

Ohio University's Office of First Year & Student Transitions (FYrST) will be hosting the inaugural OHIO First-Year Conference on Wednesday, January 24, 2024 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. in Baker University Center.

Co-sponsored by the University standing committee, the First-Year Council and the Office of First-Year and Student Traditions (FYrST), the First-Year Conference is an annual event at OHIO that allows for all within the University community to come together to share and learn from one another about trends and issues OHIO first-year students experience.

Conference Schedule 

9:00 a.m. Check-In

9:30 a.m. Welcome Remarks

10:00 a.m. Session Block #1 (Expand to See Session Descriptions)

Baker 230 - Digital Dialogues: Supporting First-Year Students with Technology 

Presenters: Cortney Hill, Julie Chiki, and Joy Cobb 

Join us for a roundtable discussion where OIT facilitators will present key technological milestones encountered by first-year students and discuss ways that OIT works to equip students for success. Most of this session will be devoted to small-group discussions, providing participants a platform to highlight their successes in engaging first-year students with technology, present challenges in supporting technology usage, and offer opportunities for innovation to influence academic success. 

Baker 231 - Fostering Success Beyond the Classroom: Collaborative Learning Insights for First-Year OHIO University Students 

Presenters: Elizabeth Fallon, John Akoeda, and Agam Syahrial

At OHIO University, first-year students receive classroom instruction from dedicated professors, but their educational journey extends beyond traditional class settings. Beyond the lecture halls, learning becomes a dynamic process, and the Academic Achievement Center (AAC) recognizes the significance of collaborative and group learning experiences. AAC co-presenters will illuminate the manifold ways in which incoming college students stand to gain from the power of learning experiences.

Baker 233 - Canvas Kickstart for OHIO Faculty

Presenters: Candi Morris and Becky Simons

Session Description: Join the Office of Instructional Design to kickstart your exploration of Canvas. Specifically created for OHIO faculty, this session covers crucial aspects such as initiating course creation, leveraging the benefits of templates, selecting and applying OHIO-created templates, exploring the student view, and accessing valuable support resources from both Canvas and OHIO. 

Baker 235 - Building vs Burning Bridges: Relationship Advice from Administration and Faculty to Maximize Student FYE Success

Presenters: Andrew Pueschel and Wendy Merb-Brown

This session explores the experiences of two highly engaged educational developers as they reflect on their successful (and not-so-successful) navigation of the complex academic culture at a large public mid-western university. Through best practices and lessons learned from both the administrator and faculty perspective, subjects covered will include forming partnerships, skills training, curriculum development, resource sharing, and stakeholder engagement impacting first-year educational off

Baker 239 - Career Early. Career Often. Career Everywhere. 

Presenters: Aaron Sturgill & Ashley Beatty Smith

This session highlights the value and impact of early career conversations for first-year students. We’ll explore the collaboration between academic advising and career services and offer tools and resources to implement into your practice. Participants will gain actionable insights and strategies to enhance their approach to student success.

11:00 a.m. Session Block #2 (Expand to See Session Descriptions)

Baker 230 - Empowering Learning Community Leaders: Career Readiness 

Presenters: Itrat Sultan, Ebenezer Agorsor,  and Amish Askri

We delve into how Ohio University's Learning Community Program shapes the leadership and communication competencies of its learning community leaders (LCLs). Employing a qualitative phenomenological approach grounded in Transformational Leadership Theory, we engaged in ten semi-structured interviews with LCLs. Thematic analysis unveils program-enhancing patterns, guiding optimization for first-year student success and offering valuable career preparation aligned with NACE Competencies.

Baker 231 - Information Security: In the Classroom and Beyond! 

Presenter: Reagan Neviska

The Information Security Team will provide insight on how instructors and other staff working with students can incorporate cybersecurity best practices and topics into the classroom through collaboration with the Security Team. In this digital age, almost every career interfaces with the internet in some way. This presentation will discuss the relevancy of cybersecurity to any department, and how small steps can improve the University Community’s overall security culture.

Baker 233 - Creating for Good: First Year Experience with a Purpose and a Sense of Belonging 

Presenter: Stephanie Eggers

Mechanical engineering & Energy Engineering learning community instructors are committed to creating a welcoming experience for all new majors that incorporates both academic and social settings. Through collaboration, joint activities were designed to engage all mechanical and energy engineering first-year students, regardless of which UC 1900 section the students were enrolled in. Some of these experiences will be dicussed in this session.

Baker 237 - Understanding the Unique Needs of a First Year Regional Campus Student

Presenters: Ashlee Tatman and Beth Barnes

In this session, participants will learn about regional campus students and how they often differ onals withfrom students who choose to attend a residential campus. Lead by student services professionals with nearly 30 years of combined regional campus experience, we willifferen discuss the process of college choice for regional campus students, anecdotal traits, differences in advising, barriers or challenges regional students may experience, and retention statistics and efforts.

Baker 239 - Rethinking Probation: Supporting Students in Academic Recovery 

Presenters: Didi Chilcott and Kristin Distel

The news of being placed on probation can be devastating for our first-year students. There is confusion, frustration, and even denial centered around this academic status and what it means for a student’s academic future. This session's purpose is to facilitate a discussion on best practices in working with students in academic recovery, and how data can be used to support new outreach and intervention, as well as to identify lingering gaps for our students who are at risk for probation status.

12:00 p.m. Keynote Speaker

picture of Dr. Cindy Ann Kilgo at Indiana University
Dr. Cindy Ann Kilgo (they/them)

Dr. Cindy Ann Kilgo (they/them) recently completed service as the Interim Co-Director of the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and holds the rank of Associate Professor at Indiana University. Their research areas include high-impact educational practices, the college experience for minoritized student populations and the facilitation of institutional change processes toward more inclusive and equitable campus environments.

Their research has been published in the Journal of College Student Development, Higher Education, Research in Higher Education, The Journal of Higher Education, Journal of Homosexuality, Journal of Diversity in Higher Education and The Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, among other publication outlets. Their book, Supporting Success for LGBTQ+ Students: Tools for Inclusive Campus Practice, was released in October 2020. They were named the recipient of the 2021 Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) Early Career Award and a 2022 recipient of the Indiana University Trustees Teaching Award.

1:30 p.m. Session Block #3 (Expand to See Session Descriptions)

Baker 230 - Peer Perspectives on the First-Year Experience

Presenters: Office of First-Year & Student Transitions Student Leaders

One of the critical components of the first-year experience is peer connection. Join this facilitated panel to hear from student leaders in the First-Year and Student Transitions Office who work directly with OHIO first-year students. Panelists will reflect on their experiences working in Bobcat Student Orientation and Learning Community Programs, and attendees will have a chance to ask questions about peer engagement in the first year.

Baker 231 - Continue the Conversation with Dr. Cindy Ann Kilgo 

Presenter: Dr. Cindy Ann Kilgo

Join our keynote speaker for continued dialogue about the content of their presentation, their previous work experiences, and how the information shared can be applied to your work with first-year students. 

Baker 233 - The Bobcat Living Experience: Creating Inclusive, Engaging, and Thriving Communities for First-Year Bobcats 

Presenter: Jillian Phillips

Housing and Residence Life believes all students should have an intentional residential experience that will provide them with opportunities to build relationships with other Bobcats, connect them with campus resources, and establish their sense of belonging at OHIO. The Bobcat Living Experience (BLE) unifies the goals of well-being, health relationships, and sense of belonging into a unified, intentionally designed, and sequenced living and learning experience for first-year students. 

Baker 235 - Teaching the Disrupted Learner

Presenter: Jeremy Henkel

This presentation will summarize recent research into the characteristics of Gen Z and the effects of the COVID disruption on college students. While the pandemic continues to impact student preparation, engagement, and classroom expectations, the pandemic merely accelerated changes that instructors already were noting in students. In light of this research, participants will consider how to adjust their instructional practices to support the academic success of today’s learners.

Baker 237 - Building a Summer Bridge Program for College Readiness

Presenters: Medea Loibl and Ashlee Tatman

In this session, you will learn about the benefits of summer bridge programs and get hands on tools on how to build a curriculum that is relevant for first-year students. Showcasing the existing summer bridge program at OHIO Chillicothe we will discuss program components and provide ideas for collaboration, partnerships, and funding as well outreach strategies. Join us to learn how to get first-year students college ready and to build strong relationships from day one!

Baker 239 - Enhancing the College Welcome Experience

Presenters: Zach Graman and Didi Chilcott

Brainstorm ideas to help enhance the College Welcome experience for First-Year Students. University College Advising and Student Services will host a discussion to share of ideas and key events that are facilitated in College Welcomes across various academic units with the goal of enhancing the experience for all students. Examples of successful activities will be critical to improve student engagement. Developing belonging begins at BSO and is further developed during the first week on campus.

2:30 p.m. Session Block #4 (Expand to See Session Descriptions)

Baker 230 - Practices That Leverage Technology for Student Success, Transparent Teaching and Curricular Efficiencies 

Presenters: Melinda Rhodes-DiSalvo and Eszti Major Rohrer

One of the most significant challenges first-year students experience relates to the hidden curriculum. They come without an understanding of implicit and embedded assumptions about higher education in contrast with the formal statements about curricula and their academic programs. The session will discuss: 1) Technology, design to lessen cognitive load. 2) Teaching and learning with technology to promote learning 3) Technology across courses and curriculum to connect and support.

Baker 231 - OHIO's Interactive NSSE Dashboard: Moving From Date to Actionable Insights 

Presenter: Suzette Burlingame

OHIO has a publicly available interactive dashboard of NSSE results for the past four administrations (2014, 2017, 2020, and 2023). With both longitudinal and peer comparison data for Engagement Indicators, High-Impact Practices, and Topical Modules, there is a wide range of quality data provided by our undergraduate students to help inform decision-making and institutional improvements. We’ll explore navigating the NSSE dashboard and discuss how you can use it to drive informed change.

Baker 235 - Fostering First-Year Belonging Through Academic Assistance 

Presenters: Heather Wolf and Kristin Distel

First-year students’ sense of belonging is an important factor in retention and persistence. This sense of belonging includes academic confidence and aptitude; however, a gap in preparation can threaten first-year students’ performance and sense of belonging. Our presentation will discuss the Academic Achievement Center’s services, including Rufus Ready, tutoring, and Academic Coaching, that develop academic skills while simultaneously fostering a sense of belonging for first-year students.

Baker 237 -How Many ACEs Do Our Students Have Up Their Sleeves?  

Presenter: Chad Barnhardt

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) are potentially tragic events that occur before a child reaches the age of 18. ACEs can have lifelong effects from abuse, neglect and household challenges. It is estimated that 2/3 of individuals have experienced at least one ACE and more that 1 in 5 have experienced three or more. This presentation is designed to understand and reframe how we view the experiences of our students.

Baker 239 -Being a First-Year Bobcat as a Junior: Supporting Students with Dual Enrollment (DE) Credits Throughout the First Year

Presenters: Kris Kumfer, Zach Graman, and Jacob Haskins

DE provides access for 7-12 grade students to earn college and high school credit. Many students enter OHIO as first-year students having earned an associate degree. How do we support the holistic needs of this growing population of first-year students across programs and disciplines? Participants will share perspectives from working with students with DE credit and will be facilitated by Advising & Student Services staff in University College who advise DE students on the Athens campus.

Get Involved with First-Year Initiatives

There are multiple ways OHIO faculty and staff can get involved with OHIO's First-Year Initiatives.

  • Register to Attend the Conference

    Registration for the 2025 OHIO First-Year Conference will open in Fall 2024.

  • Apply for a Mini-Grant

    The First-Year Mini-Grant application process has closed for this academic year. Details will be available for the next cycle in Fall 2024.

  • Submit a Presentation Proposal

    Proposal submissions for the 2025 OHIO First-Year Conference will open in Fall 2024.

Have Questions or Need Support?

If you would like more information or have questions, please email Wendy Merb-Brown, Assistant Dean for First Year and Students in Transition (FYrST) programs at