Announced nationally this week, the University of Nevada, Reno was recognized for its innovative one-credit course designed to better prepare first-year students for the rigors of college life.
NevadaFIT (which stands for “Freshman Intensive Transition”) is a winning submission in this year’s Academic Leaders Toolkit. The toolkit, a joint project of two of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s (WICHE) membership networks, the Western Academic Leadership Forum (Forum) and the Western Alliance of Community College Academic Leaders (Alliance), is a peer-reviewed repository of programs and practices that have been successfully deployed in postsecondary institutions around the West.
“The demonstrated success of NevadaFIT in preparing students to manage and overcome academic and structural challenges is invaluable,” Veronica Dujon, vice-chair of the Forum and the director of the Office of Academic Policy and Authorization for the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission, said. “This initiative is particularly worthy of recognition as institutions attempt to address the adverse and inequitable consequences of the pandemic. NevadaFIT is an outstanding and inspiring investment in students.”
NevadaFIT is modeled after a program at Louisiana State University which has been replicated at over 30 universities nationwide and received national acclaim for its focus on student success from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Established in 2013 with 48 biology students, NevadaFIT has since expanded to 3,600 students across all majors and will be a required class for all incoming first-year students starting in Fall 2021.
University of Nevada, Reno students participate in NevadaFIT the week prior to the start of the fall semester. During that time, they attend skill sessions about notetaking, study tools, financial literacy and mindfulness. They also experience a rigorous core class with lectures, exams and homework, so they get a sense of the real-life demands and expectations of attending college. Upper-class students serve as mentors throughout the week to provide support.
“NevadaFIT increases retention and graduation rates for participants, especially for first-generation students, students of color, and students from low-income backgrounds,” Felicia DeWald, the University’s NevadaFIT director, said. “The success of NevadaFIT has been the direct result of enthusiastic support by deans, faculty, academic advisors, and student services. We are thrilled that NevadaFIT is now part of the institutional fabric of our University experience.”
Forum members are academic leaders at four-year colleges and chief executives and chief executive officers of systems and state-coordinating and governing boards within the WICHE region. A selection committee from the Forum annually selects a winning tool to be recognized for their contribution to the higher education community.
Organized along dozens of topic categories – from quality assurance to workforce training, from student advising to community engagement – the Academic Leaders Toolkit is a resource for college and university academic leaders to make prudent decisions, develop new initiatives, build upon efficiencies and peer expertise, and better support their students and institutions.