Students' Perceptions of the Impact and Value of First-Year Seminars at a Hispanic-Serving Institution

2016-02-16T00:00:00Z (GMT) by Jamie N. Riess
The rate of student departure in the first year continues to puzzle higher education researchers and policy makers. Colleges and universities have instituted first-year seminars to promote first-year students’ academic and social integration into higher education. The research on first-year seminars has documented positive effects on a variety of outcomes. However, few studies investigate the meanings students make of their experiences in first-year seminars, and even fewer studies examine racial and ethnic minority students’ experiences in first-year seminars. This study investigated the impact and value of first-year seminars from diverse first-year students’ points of view at a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It employed a case study research design. The primary sources of data collection comprised surveys and interviews. Document analysis of course evaluations complemented the survey and interview data. The results of this study reveal that first-year students at a Hispanic-Serving Institution perceived that their First-Year Experience course promoted their academic and social integration, an enhancement that, according to Tinto’s (1993) model of student departure, may influence the process by which they stay or leave institutions of higher education. These findings support the implementation and ongoing investment in first-year seminars, and can be used to inform institutional strategic planning, curriculum, and policy and program decisions.