For the past 50 years Suffolk County Community College has assisted students in their adjustments to college life, but in Fall 1987 a freshman survival course, based on the Ellis model, called Freshman Seminar (COL101/CS15) was made mandatory. Its purpose was to improve retention and to provide a common, shared experience for all first time, full-time students. To prepare for this collegial effort, faculty took part in a threshold training workshop to become eligible to teach the course. Designed as a heterogeneous seminar with a class size of 15, faculty utilized a common syllabus and text to help ensure continuity when teaching the course. In the spring of 1993, although a limit of 21 was approved by the College, it was felt that the instructional integrity of the course was preserved. Additionally, a 40% cost savings in increased utilization resulted.
Freshman Seminar (COL101/CS15) is, in a large sense, a strategic planning process for students. For the wide range of abilities and needs of entering students, there is no other college course that offers the techniques and resources to succeed in college life, as well as to explore careers and make personal choices. Other courses are discipline-specific, but COL101/CS15 provides a basis for the analysis individuals must perform to find their direction and triumphs. If education, from the Latin e duco, means to "lead out" a student’s talents so they can make their best life choices, COL101/CS15 is the only course whose goal it is to specifically provides such an opportunity. In fact, Suffolk County Community College received national recognition for its Freshman Seminar Program by receiving the Outstanding Freshman Advocate Award in 1992.
There has been ongoing evaluation of the course since its inception. Seventy-five percent of students surveyed in a 1989-90 study who were enrolled in Freshman Seminar indicated a positive response to the test-taking, note-taking and comprehensive reading and writing skills components of the course, as well as to its increasing their awareness and use of academic support services. A similar percentage (75-80%) of students reported improvement in money management, time management, stress management, goal setting, prioritizing, health practices, communication and multicultural skills. Approximately 42% reported that they applied techniques learned in this class to their subject area courses. Similar findings are reported in the Freshman Seminar Program Review completed in the 1994-95 academic year.
The program review, conducted only at the Ammerman Campus and a Target Team (see Chapter 8, Planning and Resource Allocation) also posed questions about the viability of the program and made recommendations in 1995-96. As a result of these reviews, two studies were conduct by the Office of Institutional Research, Summary of a Study Evaluating the Impact of the Freshman Seminar (COL101/CS15) on SCCC Student’s Outcomes, May, 1996 and An Examination of the Academic Benefits of Completing the Freshman Seminar Course During the Entering Semester, 1996 (Appendices 61 and 62). Both studies found results in the affirmative to support the fact that Freshman Seminar affects student success, and most particularly when taken in the first semester of entry into the College. The COL101/CS15 Advisory Committee, working in concert with the Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Campus Deans of Instruction, considered all the recommendations, comments and research data in Fall 1996 and submitted a proposal for changes in COL101/CS15 for 1997-98 which included the following:
- the course shall remain mandatory;
- the course began to be offered as a 7 1/2 week modules in Fall 1997, with the goal of all sections being 7 1/2 weeks by Spring 1998;
- the course carries 1.5 credits for both students (formerly 1 credit), as well as for faculty;
- department specific sections are being developed, but they must adhere to the COL101/CS15 core concept, carry the COL101/CS15 designation, and be coordinated with respective campus faculty Honors coordinators.