New First Year Learning Community

Initiative begins for RWU first year students this fall


Emily Dvareckas/The Hawks' Herald

Students in Karen Bilotti and Dr. Zoila Quezada’s First Year Learning Community meet for 50 minutes on Wednesdays.

On Monday Sept. 13, all first year students at Roger Williams University began their First Year Learning Community (FYLC).

The FYLC is a group every first year student has to meet in for a 50-minute session once a week for 10 weeks. Associate Dean of Student Success Allison Chase Padula said the sessions are led by a facilitator who could be a faculty member, someone from student life, someone from the advising office or even a provost like Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Margaret Everett.

The First Year Learning Community is an initiative first envisioned by Chase Padula and the Center for Student Academic Success staff when preparing for the new academic year. Chase Padula said she then brought the idea to Everett who helped design the initiative.

“We had lots of conversations with different constituencies across campus. I invited faculty to help give feedback and participate in it as well. Staff to do the same,” Chase Padula said

Chase Padula said the purpose of the FYLCs is to help students with the transition into college that can be challenging especially with the pandemic.

“In response to that challenge we decided to create these first year learning communities as a way to provide some extra support for those students to make that transition successfully,” said Chase Padula. “[It also helps] promote a sense of community and remind students that they have lots of places on campus for support, both for each other and also on reaching out to upperclassmen, faculty and staff.”

The FYLCs all had their first session either last week or this Monday according to Chase Padula.

Chase Padula said the first two weeks focused on preparing the students for the first days of classes and community engagement.

“The first week was really [about] getting to know one another,” said Chase Padula. “[Students] getting to know their facilitator, and talking a little bit about the first week and first days of classes. It really focused on transition things like the differences between high school and college.”

“The second week we’re embarking on now is all about community engagement,” said Chase Padula. “We’re introducing [the first year students] to what [community engagement] means at Roger Williams University and all the different ways you can get involved with the community whether that’s joining a club or an organization, thinking about doing study abroad in the future or doing community service.”

Chase Padula said all FYLCs have the same curriculum.

There are a total of 46 FYLCs at RWU this academic year. Chase Padula said there are groups included in that number of 46 that previously had programs that will stay in those programs but with the FYLC curriculum incorporated into them. These groups include international students with the global ambassador program, honors students with Honors 100, and students who are members of Strive, Overcome, Achieve, Rise (SOAR) and the Intercultural Leadership Ambassador Program and Scholarship (ILAPS).

At the beginning of the course Chase Padula said students took a pre-course survey in the first session and at the end of the 10 weeks of classes they will take a post-course survey followed by an end of semester survey to “see what impact the FYLC had on them in their transition.”

“Obviously, we’re hoping for positive feedback,” said Chase Padula. “But, we’re also hoping to hear if there were things they would have liked to have been part of the program that we could think about doing in different ways in the future.”