Today: Mar 01, 2024

English professor wins national award for FYE

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Nicole Henderson, director of FYE.

One Southern professor was recently recognized for her work at the university, particularly with First-Year Experience.
Nicole Henderson, associate professor of English and director of Southern’s FYE, was named an Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate by The National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.
“I was incredibly honored to be chosen for the award, and a bit shocked,” she said. “I had to have a colleague read the email to be sure I was reading it correctly.”
According to The National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition’s website, there is a system to selecting 10 people in the country as Outstanding First-Year Student Advocates.
“Each year, presidents of American higher education institutes are invited to nominate one educator on their campus for this award that are doing exceptional work in the areas of student learning, development and success,” according to its website, which also said a national panel of educators examines the nominees’ portfolios.
The website also said the committee chooses 10 individuals based on several criteria.
“As a group, these individuals mirror the diversity of American colleges and universities. They share the common goal of improving the educational experience of first-year students, yet their methods for doing so are uniquely responsive to the particular institutional settings of which they are a part,” according to the website.
Henderson said she does not think she’s the only person being honored by receiving the award.
“Although the award has my name on it, it truly belongs to the university. No one builds successful FYE programs alone, and I certainly did not,” she said. “First of all, I didn’t even direct it alone. Denise Bentley-Drobish, director of Student Life, co-directs the program with me and Jan Jones in the FYE office has helped us lead it since the beginning. But even we don’t own it. This program is a true collaboration of many, many people across the university – faculty, staff, students, and administrators.”
According to Henderson, she and Bentley-Drobish have been in charge of the program since 2007 – the FYE program has been at Southern for five years.
“We were part of [a] 20-person committee charged with creating the program,” Henderson said.
Marianne Kennedy, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, said in a press release she was glad Henderson won the award.
“This is a well-earned honor for Nicole, who has worked very hard in developing and coordinating the implementation of a first-rate FYE program,” she said. “It’s also a tribute to the program itself and everyone who has played a role in making it such a success.”
According to Southern’s website, the FYE program helps freshmen make the transition from high school to college.
“FYE is your home base for programs, resources, and services geared to getting you started at Southern. A key part of FYE is learning communities, groups of 20 first-year students who take two or three particular classes together during [their] first semester. But FYE is much more – it’s also about events, workshops, and resources that enrich and support your Southern experience,” according to Southern’s website.
Freshmen are also broken up in the FYE program based on how they placed at Southern.
“Students who have been accepted into the Honors College participate in the Honors College learning community. All other first-year students participate in the INQUIRY Learning Community,” according to Southern’s website.
Even though the FYE program is still relatively new at Southern, Henderson said she believes it has already been blossoming.
“I do believe the program has been successful, for the obvious reasons, like gains in retention, [grade point averages], and engagement for first-year students,” she said. “But I also think it’s been successful because it’s helped to bring faculty, staff, and administrators and students together for the common goal of welcoming and helping our newest students succeed.”
Henderson said Southern the Outstanding First-Year Experience Student Advocate award is not the first time the university has been acknowledged for its program.
“In addition to this award, we are one of only eight institutions in the country being studied as part of a Spencer Foundation Grant project because our first-year students have made such significant gains in areas related to student engagement since we launched the FYE program in 2007,” she said.

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