Friday, February 17, 2012

Learning to adjust

Lindsey Treffry | Argonaut
The spring 2012 semester offers a clean slate and a challenge to 73 new University of Idaho freshmen with a 90 percent retention rate from fall.
“Most first-year students do not truly understand how much more rigorous the University of Idaho curriculum is than the high school curriculum,” said Andrew Brewick, director of academic advising.
By most, he means the 336 first-year, non-transfer, straight-from-high-school students who earned below a 2.0 GPA in fall — some who even received a 0.0 GPA and never attended classes — and were then put on academic probation.
 
Alex Rodriquez, freshman general studies major, decided to return for the semester.
 
Rodriquez, who suffers from an adjustment disorder and anxiety and depression, said the amount of freshmen on academic probation does not surprise him.
“Homework is harder than it should be and there’s too much,” Rodriquez said.

Rodriquez was enrolled in the Virtual Technology and Design program before he realized it was too complicated and technical. He expected to learn the skills hands-on. So with his expectations unmet, he said he mismanaged homework and time.
“Very often (freshmen) just have no idea how high the stakes are for certain assignments, (and) they are unable to get up for class,” Brewick said. “They have just not yet developed the behaviors that it takes to be a successful college student.”
 
When Rodriquez returned for the spring semester, he met with an academic adviser, changed his major and changed his schedule to allow two hours for homework each day. He said he is just trying to come back next year.
 
“Now I know when to do homework and when not to do it,” Rodriquez said.

Brewick said the Student Options Advising Retreat is offered to students like Rodriquez who are on academic probation.
SOAR allows students to meet with a UI faculty member or staff advisers, complete an academic plan, take tours of student support units and participate in study skill workshops.

Brewick said students on academic probation are generally freshmen.
 
“Primarily it is because first-year students are coming into a brand new environment,” he said. “We are expecting them to transition into being away from the home and to be responsible for all of their own basic needs, as well as academics.”
Of the 336 on probation from fall, the advising program removed all students who weren’t registered for spring semester and invited 254 students to SOAR Jan. 10.
Brewick said 136 attended. He said those students who follow up on meetings and try to change their academic behaviors, but still fall short, will have more leniency from the associate dean if they attend SOAR.

“At SOAR we focus very specifically on helping students to develop a plan to get the behaviors and habits that they need to be successful,” Brewick said.

Freshman architecture major, Andrea Bachman, said she had a smooth transition between semesters.

“(This spring) I had set higher expectations,” Bachman said.
Bachman is one of 107 first-year students entering into the UI Honors Program. Application criteria for the program is based on ACT or SAT scores and a requirement of a 3.77 unweighted, accredited high school GPA.
According to the Director of the University Honors Program Stephan Flores, freshmen in the UI Honors Program have an average high school unweighted GPA of 3.91 this year. In comparison, the average GPA of all degree-seeking, first-time, first-year students who submitted a GPA in fall was 3.33 according to UI Fast Facts.

“Relatively few students leave UI who are first-year students, after their first semester who are in honors,” Flores said. “ … On the other hand, we may have students who participate who come out of high school and take at least three honors credits, to maintain membership. If those students are not enrolled in an additional three honors credits in spring semester, they are no longer (enrolled).” 

Flores said from his experience, Honors Program students have few difficulties with GPA and tend to have more substantial financial aid standings than some students do.
 
“... I get to know the honors professors more than (I would in a) larger lecture hall,” Bachman said. “I learn better in smaller classes.”
 
Flores said despite a 10.8 percent decrease in Honors Program freshmen, 32 percent of freshmen were from out of state, which ranks higher than the university.
Overall, UI experienced a drop in freshmen too. There were 1,631 new freshmen last fall — 7 percent less than that of 2010 as well as a 10 percent decrease in out-of-state freshmen.
Washington native and freshman Craig Woodruff said this is probably due to the removal of the Western Undergraduate Exchange.
The ecohydrological engineering major said the WUE waived a lot of out-of-state tuition and without it, people were probably discouraged from applying.
Woodruff was awarded $2,000 per semester, due to the Discover Idaho scholarship program.
 
“I didn’t even know about Discover Idaho until I got it,” Woodruff said. “It was a nice surprise.”
Flores related the drop of non-residents in the Honors Program to the drop of the WUE as well.
“In general the Honors Program tends to do better than the general student population in terms of enrollment,” Flores said. “ … In the past instead of 32 percent non-residents, that number would have been higher.”
Even without the WUE, there was a slight increase in the number of financial aid packages awarded as well as the amount awarded. But tuition increased by 8.1 percent for out-of-state students and 8.4 percent for in-state students according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
 
According to Common Data Sets provided by UI Institutional Research and Assessment, the average financial aid package for 1,123 freshmen was $12,148 during the 2010 to 2011 academic year. This year, 1,165 freshmen were awarded $12,225.
 
On average the 2011-2012 CDS said 79.2 percent of freshman financial need was met.
Woodruff said even without the Discover Idaho scholarship, he probably would have attended UI.
 
“Now I’m in the groove of things,” Woodruff said. “It was a nice break in between (semesters) and I was able to re-focus before coming back.”
As seen in Feb. 17 issue of the Argonaut.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Teachers wanted

Lindsey Treffry | Argonaut

Senior Emily Brookhart was raised by a teacher of a Title One, low-income school. She has a 4.0 GPA and holds a liaison position as part of the University of Idaho Honors Program. She plans to graduate with majors in English and international studies.

Brookhart said she is at a crossroads. While she has traveled abroad in L√ľneburg, Germany, is a teacher’s assistant in the English department and has spent time as a Writing Center tutor, Brookhart is not sure if she wants to apply to graduate school for English or law school.

So instead, she decided to apply for Teach For America, an organization that works to ensure children raised in 43 poverty-ridden regions across the U.S. are able to get an education.    

Teach For America places college graduates in these areas to teach for a two-year period in order to improve education levels and raise graduation rates.  

“Teach For America will help me hone my interests,” Brookhart said.    
 
Brookhart endured a two-month process of applications, interviews, plans and discussions.   

“The application process was super intense,” Brookhart said. “There were so many steps.”  

Finally, Brookhart was accepted to be a teacher for Clark County School District in Las Vegas, her second-choice location. Brookhart said with 300,000 enrolled students, the high school graduation rate is a mere 44 percent. The district represents 75 percent of the state’s school-age population, according to the Teach For America website. 

Brookhart is one of very few that Teach For America has chosen from UI, partially due to low application rates, but application rates at UI have grown according to Director of Recruitment in the Northwest Justin Yan.  

Yan hired UI Volunteer Center Intern Samantha Storms to be a Teach For America Campus Campaign Coordinator, in order to promote the program and provide resources to UI applicants.  

“Teach For America recognizes leaders, and recognized Vandals would be good in the classroom,” Storms said. 
  
This was the first year Teach For America exerted campaign efforts at UI.  

“I was raised by a teacher and had a fortunate educational experience,” Storms said. “Everyone knows someone … that couldn’t afford to go to college.”  

Once accepted, applicants will be put in summer training programs relative to the region in which they are placed. Once hired, salaries range from $30,000 to $51,000 including health and retirement benefits, grants, loans, discounts and awards. 

“People think it’s volunteer work,” Yan said. “You don’t have to have a major in education and you don’t have to teach forever.” 
  
Although Brookhart said the application process was lengthy, she said the initial application takes less than a week.  

“People should just apply,” Brookhart said. “It’s not a binding application. Even the application process — movies and interviews gave me a much better understanding of the education system in our country.” 

Brookhart said she knows it will be the hardest two years of her life. She said that teaching in a low-income area will sometimes make her feel like a failure.  

“I’m going to feel really inadequate,” she said.  

But Brookhart said she has a goal of closing the achievement gap.  

“It’s gonna suck,” she said. “But Teach For America helps so that (workers can) pull through it.”  

The final application deadline that is part one of subsequent rounds of the admissions process is Friday, Feb. 10. 
  
“In our country there’s vast inequality,” Yan said. “I don’t understand how we don’t want to do things about this. There is nothing more noble that we can do right out of college than ensure that kids have the same education we do.”   

As seen in Feb. 7 issue of the Argonaut.