LaGuardia Community College Celebrates 10 Years of Student Success Through the First Year Seminar

LaGuardia Community College Celebrates 10 Years of Student Success Through the First Year Seminar

LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (March 29, 2024) — Students, faculty, and staff at LaGuardia Community College/CUNY are invited to celebrate the 10th anniversary of LaGuardia’s First Year Seminar (FYS) supporting student success. The event is scheduled from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., April 10, in the Atrium, located on the first floor of the E-Building.

During the event, LaGuardia students and alumni will share their experiences about the impact of the FYS on their success. Students will have an opportunity to network with Student Success Mentors (SSMs), faculty, and staff who make the FYS possible.

One of the students is Adam Sanchez, Liberal Arts major from Manhattan, who said he appreciates the experience of learning about tools and resources that have helped him.

“Not only did I learn about so many resources offered at the college, but I was also able to build confidence, and practice mindfulness, time management, and organizational skills to name a few,” said Sanchez who is a proud husband, father, activist, and elevator mechanic. “Due to the introspective nature of the course, not only has it helped me to become a better student, but it also helped me to become a better person.”

Sanchez says his favorite thing about my FYS experience was the connectedness that developed between him and his peers.

“Because of how the class was structured, it gave us plenty of opportunities to interact and learn so much about each other,” he said. New students, old students, young and older – it was nice to see all our differences but also how similar we all were, and I believe that is what led to such a solid unit.”

Another student, Bryan Perez, a SSM and discipline leader in Liberal Arts, says his favorite experience in FYS was doing the Dream Deferred Essay.

“It helped me understand and view my major and career choice differently while also remembering why I chose to become an education major,” Perez said. “The advice I have for future students who participate in LaGuardia’s FYS is to come in with an open mind. I can’t think of any other college that offers a class like this, that helps you as a First Year Student and guides you in planning out the courses you’ll take in future semesters, helps you write about yourself, or even helps you build and reflect on your time management.”

Sanchez advises future students to “take full advantage of the resources and skillsets offered in this course. Bookmark the FYS textbook! I came back after 20 years fully expecting to keep my head down, do my work, and go home. I cannot begin to imagine how many opportunities, friendships, and connections I would have never gained had I approached it that way,” Sanchez said. “This class turned out to be one of the best experiences I’ve had so far in college and has set me up on a path to success. Attend the co-curricular activities, network, really immerse yourself in the introspective assignments, and take the opportunity to learn about yourself and what LaGuardia has to offer.”

Professor Ellen Quish, Director of the First Year Programming and Student Success and adjunct for the FYS in Liberal Arts, Social Science and Humanities, has led the college-wide FYS initiative since it launched in 2014 and has supported the development of the 16 discipline-specific FYS courses. Professor Quish has also co-developed and delivered the New to College training required of faculty interested in teaching the FYS to more than 200 faculty. She developed the Student Success Mentor Program, which has continued to flourish at the college.

“The FYS is unique because, unlike most colleges, it is discipline-specific, it is a graduation requirement and most of the courses are credit-bearing,” Professor Quish said. “What makes it unlike any course that students will take at LaGuardia is the opportunity to connect with and learn from a successful current LaGuardia student or alumni member attending college elsewhere, like the SSMs, for one hour every week.  Learning experience-based strategies and tips from peers, especially for students who may be first gen, is essential. In collaboration with faculty who have chosen to teach the FYS, students get a clear message that LaGuardia is very much committed to helping them create a robust student experience and achieve academic success.”

Andrea Francis, CA(SA), CFA, MS, Professor in the Business and Technology Department, says the Studio Hour, focused self-reflection writing, is a powerful component of the FYS which is facilitated by SSMs.

“We have a strong SSM program that recruits, trains, and supports current and prior LaGuardia students to facilitate the Studio Hour attached to the FYS,” said Professor Francis, who has taught courses in FYS. “This model allows for peer mentorship on a sustained basis over the semester, allowing FYS students to be guided by and draw from the invaluable experiences of their SSM. Additionally, this SSM model has helped to employ students on campus, provide them with professional development, and has them working closely with faculty and staff. It has even created a launchpad for some SSMs who have become employees and instructors at LaGuardia.”

Professor Francis and her fellow course designer, Professor Rajendra Bhika, CPA, MS, believe the FYS not only makes a big impression on students, but also professors who participate.

“The FYS continues to teach me the importance of embracing vulnerability, which takes courage, valuing reciprocity between myself and the students, and engaging in deep reflection about the ever-changing student body and my pedagogical response to accommodate their distinct perspectives and challenges,” Professor Francis says. “In my opinion, therefore, the FYS is unique in its potential to transform faculty pedagogical practice.”

Estefany Gonzaga, program coordinator of the Student Success Mentor Program, agrees with Professor Quish and says the FYS significantly impacts students’ success at LaGuardia by helping students establish a strong foundation for success at the College and beyond.

“During the FYS, students receive an overview of their discipline and are provided with tools and tips on how to succeed in college,” said Gonzaga, who supports Professor Quish with the New to College 2.0 Seminar for faculty who would teach the First Year Seminar. “A Student Success Mentor, a current LaGuardia student or alumni member, guides and mentors students during the FYS, offering support and resources to help students succeed at the beginning of their college journey. I think it’s essential for students to have access to these resources, opportunities, and guidance right from the start, which can help them overcome any challenges or obstacles that may arise on the path to success.”

FYS Gives Boost to Student Success

The FYS has played a significant part in creating an environment for students to learn and grow. Through its 10 years, FYS has hired approximately 230 SSMs; served more than 40,000 students; offered 16 FYS courses; worked with more than 240 faculty who have taught the FYS; and engaged with 22 FYS faculty liaisons.

These collective efforts have proven successful in student retention and graduation rates among students who participate in FYS, according to Gonzaga.

“The one-semester retention rate for Fall 2022 students who took the FYS in their first semester was 14.6% higher than for those who did not,” Gonzaga said. “The one-year retention rate was 14.2% higher, demonstrating that impact was sustained over one year. In addition, new students in Fall 2020 who took the FYS in their first semester had an 8.9% higher graduation rate than those who did not.”

Timeline of FYS Milestones

Fall 12-Spring 13: 75 faculty, staff, and students convene to form the FYE Task Force to study best practices. They recommend the design and implementation of a discipline-specific First Year Seminar (FYS) at LaGuardia.

Fall 13-Spring 14: Faculty begin designing courses; the first FYS courses launch in Spring 2014 in Business and Natural Sciences with a total of 493 students. The Student Success Mentor (SSM) program is developed.

Fall 14Spring 15: Courses LIF101 and HSF090 launch in Fall 14; the cross-divisional FYE Advisory and FYE Working Groups are formed. The one-year retention rate of students who took the FYS is 9% higher than students who did not take the FYS.

Fall 15Spring 16: ECF090, CJF101, SYF101 and LMF101 launch in Fall 15 In Spring 16, 85% of FYS students said that their SSM helped them understand what it takes to be a successful college student. A total of 6,743 students are enrolled in FYS courses. The college-wide FYE conference takes place in Spring 2016.

Fall 16Spring 17: LaGuardia launches its first extended First Year Experience (FYE) Orientation for new students, including My First Day and six core My Campus Events. Student Affairs offers a comprehensive listing of in-class co-curricular workshops to all FYS students.

Fall 17Spring 18: The core ePortfolio becomes available. The semester-to-semester retention rate for FYS students is 27% higher than students who have not taken the FYS. By Spring 18, a total of 24,994 students have taken the FYS.

Fall 18Spring 19: FYS faculty are invited to re-shape the FYS course by building on their experience and collaborating with FYS colleagues in the CTL’s Rebooting the FYS seminar.

Fall 19-Spring 20: The SSM program transitioned 128 Studio Hour sections to virtual instruction as well as adapted co-curricular events to an online format.

Fall 20-Spring 21: Distance learning continues. “You are Not Alone Event” Series is launched.

Fall 21-Spring 22: SSMs return to campus after nearly 18 months of distance learning. Resumption of signature program events in-person in Spring 2022.

Fall 22-Spring 23: Launch of the free, online LaGuardia First Year Seminar Textbook (OER); Launch of the “Mindfulness Corps Project; SSM Arts and Crafts pop up events (Mindfulness, Arts and Games) are presented; and SSM alumni are featured in the SSM alumni, “Started at LaGuardia Now I am Here” event.

Fall 23-Spring 24: Continued adoption of a free FYS textbook: the First Year Seminar OER; More than 40,000 students have taken the FYS course; and the First Year Seminar turns 10 in Spring 2024.

• • • •

LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), a Hispanic-Serving Institution, located in Long Island City, Queens offers more than 50 degrees and certificates, and more than 65 continuing education programs to educate New Yorkers seeking new skills and careers. As an institution of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his advocacy of underserved populations. Since 1971, LaGuardia’s academic programs and support services have advanced the socioeconomic mobility of students while providing them with access to a high quality, affordable college education.


Press Information

For press information, please contact: