Office of Public Affairs

(315) 312-2265

March 10, 2004

CONTACTS: Dr. David King, 312-2290;
Dr. Rhonda Mandel, 312-2232


    OSWEGO -- SUNY Oswego plans to extend its innovative FirstChoice network of small classes to all new freshmen next fall and downsize the classes at the same time.

    Capped at 25 students in the past, the menu of freshmen-only classes will drop to a maximum enrollment of 19 students next fall.

    The move results from the FirstChoice program's record of increasing student academic success, said Interim Provost David King. Nationally, studies show that students who make meaningful connections with experienced faculty are more likely to succeed in college, he added.

    The number of FirstChoice classes will grow to nearly 80, with a total of about 1,500 seats for incoming freshmen. FirstChoice began in fall 2001 by providing 875 of 1,375 first-year students with an intensive, small-class learning environment.

    "The goal is to create engaging interactive learning experiences for new freshmen and give them an opportunity to work more closely with the faculty and staff teaching these small classes," King said.

    All the FirstChoice courses make a point of helping students manage the transition to college, connect with faculty and fellow students, and get to know the opportunities available on campus. Nearly all are taught by experienced faculty or staff, and some have a peer educator working with the instructor.

    "It's the very essence of learner-centeredness," King said.

    SUNY Oswego's first-year initiatives are a defining element of the Oswego college experience. In addition to FirstChoice, they include a special advisement program for freshmen, the Oswego Reading Initiative and the freshman residential program in Johnson Hall.

    These programs and key staff responsible for creating them have received commendations and awards from the National Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, Houghton Mifflin Co., the Commission on Higher Education of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, the State University of New York, USA Group Noel-Levitz and the National Academic Advising Association.

    While the notion of freshman seminars is relatively common, the diversity of choice incorporated into Oswego's FirstChoice program makes it unique, according to Associate Provost Rhonda Mandel.

    The variety of options include discipline-based courses called preceptors, service learning courses, gateway courses in psychology and business, courses for students in the Educational Opportunity Program, life skills courses for student athletes, leadership courses, and a freshman honors course for students entering the college Honors Program.

    The additions for next fall are primarily among the preceptor courses in the College of Arts and Sciences, Mandel said. They include major-specific courses in art, biology, public relations, broadcasting, journalism, computer science, meteorology, physics, public justice and elementary education as well as courses aimed at students preparing for law and health professions. The expansion also will reduce class size and increase sections of existing courses.

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