K-State First program aims to usher new students into university life


Moving to an unfamiliar place can be both challenging and exhilarating. K-State wants to make sure students feel welcomed, safe and secure from the first moment they arrive on campus. One of the programs offered to new students, both incoming freshmen and transfer students, is K-State First.

Entering its fourth full academic year here at K-State, the K-State First program has grown considerably since it began. In 2008, just 270 students were enrolled in components of the K-State First program, but as we enter the 2013-14 academic year, more than 1,500 students are involved in K-State First.

“K-State First realizes that learning is social. If we break that down, the most important goal is for students to be academically successful,” said Gregory Eiselein, director of the K-State First Program and professor of English. “We offer classes that are challenging and encouraging. One of the ways one does this is the social transition from home to K-State. K-State First allows students to know their fellow students better, as well as getting to know their professors better.”

The are multiple components to K-State First. One of the components is the first-year seminar. This part offers classes that are traditionally held in large lecture halls as smaller classes with sizes of about 25 students. The seminar creates a more intimate setting in which students and professors can connect with the content of the course while bridging the gap between them.

Another component to the K-State First Program is Guide to Personal Success, or GPS. GPS pairs students with faculty and staff to give first-year students a professional point of reference at K-State. Mentors provide their mentees with advice and support and can help them find the resources and services they need.

“I am a first-year GPS mentor,” said Tara Coleman, web services librarian for K-State libraries. “Essentially, GPS is a platonic Match.com. The program matches students with someone based on the intended major and other key qualities. For example, if you’re introverted, you’re likely to be matched with someone else who is introverted. Or vice versa if you are extroverted.”

Coleman said mentors in the program are not the same as an academic adviser or a resident assistant, but something completely different. She said she has been here so long that she knows how to direct students to help them find the resources they might need to be successful at K-State.

CAT Communities are another aspect of the K-State First Program. These are a set of three courses — two general education and one CAT course — that new students take in groups of 22 during their first or second semester. CAT stands for Connecting Across Topics, and these CAT classes connect students with similar interests and academic majors. CAT Communities create an environment with smaller class sizes in which students can form a stronger community and feel more comfortable.

Originally in 2008, only 16 CAT Communities were offered. This coming academic year, a total of 63 CAT communities will be offered — 49 in the fall semester and 14 in the spring semester.

“New students are important to the campus,” said Emily Lehning, assistant director for the Office of Student of Life and director of New Student Services. “It’s our obligation, if you will, to provide the best experience K-State has to offer. First-year experience extrinsically matters to me. If we recruit great students, we are obligated to make them successful and to make sure they are successful.”

K-State First has a program for those students who are not first year students as well, called the K-State Book Network. KSBN offers a campus-wide common reader that is incorporated into many general education classes. This year, the common read is “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline. In the fall semester, KSBN offers many different programs and speakers connected with the common reader that all students, faculty and staff can participate in for free.

“One of the best things about this program is we have involvement from all sorts of different types of people who are a part of this program,” Lehning said of K-State First. “We have such a great diversity of students, staff and faculty from all over campus who all come together for the betterment of first-year students.”