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Navigating the OCU Journey: The First-Year Experience Course - 2024

by Megan Hornbeek Allen

Group of students and instructor

The fall 2023 semester saw the launch of FYE 1000, a first-year experience course that promised to redefine the way new students transition into university life.

A New Beginning

FYE 1000 is an eight-week course tailored exclusively for first-year students. Levi Harrel-Hallmark, OCU’s dean of students, describes it as “a hands-on, creative venture designed to harness experiential learning and team-building activities to support students as they transition to university life and study.” FYE 1000 is a crucial addition to OCU’s academic landscape, focusing on equipping students with the knowledge, skills and resources essential for a successful journey through their undergraduate years.

Uniqueness at its Core

What sets FYE 1000 apart from traditional classes at OCU is its singular focus on transitioning first-year students to life at OCU. While the course covers OCU’s history, values and mission, it also delves into topics like academic preparedness, holistic wellbeing, diversity, equity and inclusion. The unique aspect of this course lies in the dual support system—students receive guidance from both course facilitators and peer mentors.

The facilitators, drawn from various departments across the university, are passionate about helping first-year students connect with the OCU community. Simultaneously, peer mentors—consisting of sophomores, juniors and seniors—serve as role models and provide valuable insights into university life, fostering a sense of belonging among newcomers. This unique blend of classroom instruction and peer support elevates FYE 1000 to a class of its own.

The Genesis of FYE 1000

Existing orientation programs, including Stars Week and FIRST, maintain their value in onboarding students to OCU. However, through collaborative conversations between the Division of Student Affairs and the Division of Academic Affairs, university leaders recognized the potential for boosting the first-year experience. FYE 1000 emerged as a shared experience course for all first-time students, providing an essential onboarding process that assists students in discovering their identities within the campus community. This course serves as a bridge between first-week orientation and the students’ full immersion into the OCU community.

A Testimonial of Success

Danielle Shipley-Crook ’18, ’21, associate director of admissions, provided additional insight into the impact of FYE 1000. As an alumna, FYE instructor and OCU staff member involved in working with the firstyear student population throughout the admissions process, ShipleyCrook offers an interesting perspective. She highlights the rewards of witnessing students with whom she built relationships during their senior year of high school who then thrive at OCU.

She also describes the influence of the course on the students’ lives: “I think this course helps students find their place at OCU quicker.” The course not only imparts knowledge but also fosters quick friendships, making the transition from home to college less intimidating. FYE 1000 ensures all OCU freshmen have a support system in place from day one.

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