Setting a Mercy Curriculum in Motion: The First-Year Learning Community as Campus-wide Collaboration

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Part of Carlow University’s social justice mission is a commitment to providing access to education. This commitment can lead the institution to admit students who are not prepared for college-level work. As a result, the university recently removed a sequence of developmental classes because it lengthened the time to graduation, and there was no evidence that it helped students succeed. It also revised the First-Year Seminar (FYS) so that after the fi rst half of the semester, students selected a mini-course from a range of choices. This way, the supplemental instruction would feel more like an elective than a punishment. Carlow also ran the FYS as a cohort experience, in which students take courses as part of a community, given the research that shows that this “learning community” approach tends to improve retention. In addition, seasoned faculty members taught the FYS with the help of experienced students who served as First-Year Mentors. Institutional retention rates after these changes suggest that they were successful.

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Special Focus on Mercy Higher Education