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Addressing Freshmen Retention Through Focused Advisement And Seminar Programs

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

FPD2 - First-Year Advising and Transition

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.155.1 - 13.155.8



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Paper Authors


Kate Baxter University of Southern California

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Kate serves as Director, Women in Engineering Programs and Director, Student Support Programs for the Viterbi School of Engineering at the
University of Southern California.

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Louise Yates University of Southern California

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Louise serves Associate Dean, Admission & Student Affairs for the Viterbi School of Engineering at University of Southern California. She is also responsible for a freshmen introductory course for undeclared engineering majors.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Addressing Freshmen Retention through Focused Advisement and Seminar Programs

Kate Baxter, Louise Yates University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering


The issue of attrition in engineering during the freshmen year is a challenge for most colleges and universities. The Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California (USC) has designed a two pronged approach to address retention of our freshmen students. One, we provide a higher quality of student interaction through programs, services and opportunities that specifically target freshmen. The First Year Excellence (FYE) Program, implemented in Fall 2006, centralizes advisement for all freshmen in the Student Affairs Office and includes a workshop series on topics such as time management, selecting minors and a spotlight series highlighting different disciplines within engineering. As a result, we find that freshmen student’s feel supported, more invested in the community, and knowledgeable as they begin their transition from high school to the college environment, unlike many of their peers who may feel overwhelmed and intimidated. Secondly, developing academically driven coursework that engages freshmen students immediately in real world engineering issues is complementary to the core classes they are taking in math and physics. Our Freshmen Academy Program, currently in its 4th year, is a unique seminar style course taught by engineering faculty for all freshmen engineering students. This exciting, interactive class addresses topics ranging from the ethical issues that engineers face, current issues and future challenges for engineering and general concepts that provide a general foundation for problem-solving and engineering concepts. This type of early engagement assists freshmen students in visualizing a direct correlation between their current classes and what they will be involved in later in upper division courses and within industry. In the past three years we have seen a significant increase in the freshmen year return rate to the engineering major, from 85.4% in 2003 to 91.3% in 2006. The concentrated efforts around high service programs and early academic engagement in engineering have been instrumental in assisting us in retaining freshmen students.


In today’s environment of declining interests in engineering as a major for high school students, there is a need to be more creative and innovative in order to retain and graduate undergraduate students who choose to pursue engineering in college. The trend of “weeding out” engineering students with only “the tough surviving” is a practice of the past. Instead, we need to implement programs that are supportive and encourage students to succeed in all areas of engineering. Advocates for future engineering challenges agree that the continued success of technical innovation rests in academia and its ability to captivate and educate the world’s future engineers. That mission begins early with K-12 curriculum innovation and outreach programs that encourage young children to explore engineering, but is equally important in the freshmen year at the collegiate level. It is in the first year that we need to engage engineering students in a

Baxter, K., & Yates, L. (2008, June), Addressing Freshmen Retention Through Focused Advisement And Seminar Programs Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3557

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