Angela Vaughan

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Undergraduate students who engage in first-year experience courses are found to have higher GPA, retention rates, and graduation rates. This study shares the findings of program evaluation applied research within the Honors Program at the University of Northern Colorado and the current first-year experience’s impact on program retention and satisfaction rates. The program currently offers two contrasting first-year experience courses that present different curriculum and philosophy. The result is varying first-year experiences for Honors students which can reflect both students’ perceptions and experiences within the program. After compiling feedback on both courses through individual interviews, course evaluations, and anonymous surveys, suggestions are proposed to both first-year seminar courses for future semesters, starting in Fall 2023. Data was collected in a cyclical model starting in Fall 2018 and finishing in Spring 2021 semesters. As the Honors Program is moving to a more holistic view, modifying the current first-year experience to mirror that mission will help students be more supported while still getting the connection to the Honors Program that they need. Although this study looks specifically at the Honors Program at the University of Northern Colorado, its model can be adapted to other programs to help increase Honors Program retention rates and satisfaction levels.

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