First-Year Experience

The First-Year Experience working group’s focus is the Design of a Flexible Self-Discovering First-Year Experience - creating a foundation for self-actualization and establishing cultural norms associated with well-being, innovation, and lifelong learning.

Why enhance the first-year experience?

  • Empower students to explore their interests and experiment using a design thinking (or other appropriate) approach
  • Cultivate and support a campus culture focused on well-being & innovation
  • Develop self-determination and lifelong learning
  • Integrate orientation programming and the recently initiated residential curriculum
  • Engage instructors of first-year courses in meaningful collaboration that includes interdisciplinary & problem-based team teaching around global themes
  • Coordinate a collaborative first-year advising model

Moving Forward

To support development of a comprehensive first-year experience, initial areas to prototype and test have been
identified and include:

  • Engaging all first year faculty in the development of deeper learning communities (cohorts) around common annual themes and or challenges (such as NAE and UN Grand Challenges). This will be prototyped fall 2020 with an interdisciplinary team-taught Eng Fund, Global Issues, Composition, and Calculus course with a cohort of first-year
    engineering students
  • Build an interdisciplinary team of faculty coordinators of first-year courses to identify ways of reducing educational
    noise experienced by the students and develop deeper connected cohort classes
  • Centralized advising and learning support Developing student coaches to support generalized advising questions
    (ie minors, how to transfer credit, how to register for classes, etc)
  • Integrating Orientation programming (such as summer reading) to provide earlier outreach and longer engagement into the semester. A first-year college or academy that enables coordination of first-year teaching and advising
  • A modified grading system that allows students the freedom to explore and to gain competencies in a safe, yet brave, space
  • Support for staff and faculty dedicated to the success of students in their first year

First-Year Experience prototypes for the 2020-2021 school year include:

  • College of Computing community building
  • Flip calculus into scientific modeling
  • GivePulse platform for community engagement connections
  • Programming skills in Engineering Fundamentals
  • Humanistic practical engineering
  • Cohorted and coordinated first-year courses
  • "Pop-up" advising and learning center coaching
  • Humanities in the disciplines (HID)
  • Information literacy modules
  • Living laboratory for sustainability and resilience
  • Reflection protocol for Gen Ed courses
  • Local literacy teaching and learning at Michigan Tech
  • Critical ethics for Enterprise

[Learn more about our prototypes]


Team Roster

Team Co-Leaders

Brett Hamlin

  • Teaching Professor, Engineering Fundamentals
  • Instructor, Kinesiology and Integrative Physiology
Heather Simpson

Heather Simpson

  • Program Director: General Sciences and Arts/Undecided
  • Academic Advisor: Exploring Majors

First-Year Experience Team



Tarun Dam Chemistry
John Irwin Manufacturing and Mechanical Engineering Technology
Amber Kemppainen Engineering Fundamentals
Mike Meyer Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning
Libby Meyers Visual and Performing Arts
Mary Muncil Jennings Rozsa Center
John Sticklen College of Engineering
Leo Ureel College of Computing
Chris Webster College of Forest Resources and Environmental Sciences

First-Year Experience inspirations include:

  • Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • University of Michigan's integrated first year
  • Colorado College's Block Plan