September 16, 2008– The first session for the 2008-2009 season dealt with the issues and concerns that come with teaching a first year student. The presenters were Sr. Sean Peters, Megan Fulwiler, and Jeff Marlett. Each presenter discussed and provided insight on how to eliminate the barriers which can sometimes keep teachers from reaching these students. Sr. Sean Peters spoke of the FYE Passport to Saint Rose program which introduces first year students to what the college community has to offer aside from classes. Assistant professor of English, Megan Fulwiler, presented ways in which we can invite these students into our multiple discourse community. Finally Jeff Marlett, assistant professor of Religious studies, shared how he incorporates much of what first year students are experiencing into his method of teaching.

          Major issues and questions that were shared during this session dealt with the transition many of these students are experiencing in their lives. In most cases this is the first time these individuals have lived independently, and with that comes great responsibility. Taking that into consideration, as a teacher, is one of the key components to successfully connecting and teaching the first year student.

          Below you will find the materials in which each presenter shared during the session, as well as links to other helpful and informative resources. 

FYE Passport to Saint Rose

Sean Peters


The FYE Passport to Saint Rose attempts to introduce first-year students to all the possibilities in addition to classes and labs that the college community has to offer.  Students received their Passports at the Fall Academic Convocation (with follow up for those where were unable to attend).  All the information about how to use the Passport is contained in the booklet.  To support this, first-year students have access to a Black Board site which provides a number of suggestions for each Goal. 


Students are invited to complete at least one activity for each goal.  Each completed activity earns them 1 point (with a few “incented” goals earning an extra point for early completion).  When they have completed at least one activity from each goal and have accumulated a total of 15 points, they have finished their Passport requirements.  In order to encourage students to persevere with their Passports, we felt they needed an extra incentive.  So, completed Passports earn students a certificate naming them Lima Scholars, $25 on their Knights cash card and entrance into a drawing for a cash prize. 


FYE Passport goals include


  1. Set your  goals
  2. Explore the riches of diversity
  3. Enjoy creativity
  4. Learn more about your motivation and your learning style
  5. Explore some aspect of your own spirituality and/or a spirituality different from yours
  6. Take advantage of all the Capital Region has to offer
  7. Engage in the Saint Rose community
  8. Make a positive difference in the local and world community
  9. Take responsibility for your own academic success
  10. Have fun


Black Board Site 

Below is an example of the suggestions found on the Black Board site using Goal 2 Explore the riches of diversity as the sample.  


Goal 2:  Explore the riches of diversity  

            Complete at least one of the following activities

  • Participate in an experience of diversity and get your passport signed.  (1 point)  To find out about diversity experiences, visit the Multicultural Office in Avila Hall for information on experiences available each semester.   Check out the CREST [Center for Citizenship, Race and Ethnicity Studies] offerings for the semester.
  • Join Spectrum and participate in club activities.  Ask an officer of Spectrum to sign your passport.   (1 point)
  • Participate in at least one Spectrum activity and get your passport signed or stamped (1 point)
  • Interview someone who comes from a different culture than you do.  See the document  Intercultural Interview for ideas about how to conduct this interview.  Write a one page reflection about how this experience changed how you think.  Submit your paper (be sure you put your name on it) to Sr. Sean Peters at (When approved, 1 point)  See the sample of the Intercultural Interview  sheet on the back. 
  • Create or participate in some other experience of diversity during your first year at Saint Rose.  Devise a way to demonstrate what you have done.  (When approved, 1 point)

Intercultural Interview

You may simply “fill in the blanks,” save this and then attach it to an e-mail to Sr. Sean Peters at


Your Name _____________________________  Your e-mail address ____________________


Name of the person you interviewed _____________________________________


How is that person culturally different from you (Example – from a different country than you, of a different ethnic background from you.)?



You might want to ask about things such as:

            What holidays do you celebrate?  What are some of the ways in which you celebrate them?  What do you find most fun about those holidays?



            What are your favorite foods?  (If the person is from another country, you might ask if it’s possible to get that food in restaurants here in the US.)  You might also want to ask what restaurants they recommend in the Albany area that offer a good example of that ethnic food.


            What sports are most popular in your ethnic heritage/country?  Who’s your favorite team/player?  How are they doing now in this sport?


            How do you celebrate “family events” like weddings, baptisms or funerals?


            What else do you want to tell me about your culture that will help me understand it?


            Is there anything you want to ask me? 


After the interview reflect on the following questions. 

What surprised you most about this interview?  What did the other person tell you that you didn’t expect?  What did you learn about the other culture which was new to you? 


What did you learn about your own culture from this interview? 


How did you feel about this experience, for example, was it fun?  anxiety provoking?  delightful?  other?  some combination of these? 

 Access to Black Board Site

If you wish to have access to the FYE Passport to Saint Rose Black Board site, please sign the list “going around,” or notify Sean Peters at  When you have access, simply go to, choose the community tab and FYE Passport to Saint Rose should appear on your organizations list.  If you have any problems, contact me at extension 2343.  





Provisions: Teaching the First-Year Student

September 16, 2008

Megan Fulwiler

Assistant Professor of English

 It’s useful to imagine first-year students as strangers encountering multiple new cultures and communities. How can we invite them into our multiple discourse communities?


v    Connect to their prior knowledge. Who are they and what are they bringing with them to our classes? The more we can find out about their assumptions, ideas, histories, the more we can build bridges between their prior knowledge and the goals and content of our course. Writing can be a great way to do this. For example, a common first assignment in 105 is a literacy autobiography–an essay that asks them to identify and reflect upon significant experiences with teachers, texts, and ideas that have shaped how they view themselves as readers and writers. This assignment goes a long way in terms of valuing and validating the rich literacy history they come to college with and provides a chance for students to look reflect upon their education.


v    Identify and articulate the tacit expectations and conventions of both your discipline and your course. First-year students are not only strangers to academic culture, but because they take 3 or 4 classes across the disciplines they are also entering 3 or 4 different cultures—each with their own set of conventions, and expectations when it comes to inquiry, evidence, and styles/genres of writing.  How can you help students analyze these genres and conventions?  What do you expect in terms of writing? What are the genres and conventions of writing in your discipline?


v    Invite students into the particular cultural practices of academic culture by providing them withfrequent opportunities for supported practice in the discursive practices of your discipline: the kinds of reading, writing, and speaking that is valued in your disciplines. Giving them the chance to practice thinking like a Biologist, reading like a literary scholar, or writing like a political scientist. Provide them with prompt feedback on their reading and writing as they discover, learn, and try out these new academic literacies.




Related Resources:

Carnegie Mellon University: Best Practices for Teaching First-Year Undergraduates

University of Michigan: Knowing Your Students Better: A Key to Involving First-Year Students

George Mason University: Teaching First-Year Students



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