Awards presented at a recent celebration hosted by First Year Experience included recognition of Rebecca Lasher, assistant professor of social work, and Lane Perry, director of the Center for Service Learning, as the 2013-14 FYE Advocates for faculty and staff, respectively.
Lasher’s and Perry’s work with first-year students extended this year to their participation with The Ripple Effect freshman learning community that was launched last fall. Students involved in the community attended a retreat, took several classes together and participated in discussion and activities designed to help them not only observe the “ripples” that small acts and service perpetuate for social change but also to jump in and make ripples themselves.
Students who nominated Lasher for the award said she helped them understand material before and after class and always asked students when she saw them on campus how they were and how their school work was going. They described her as energetic, cheerful, encouraging, caring and understanding. One student said Lasher sent out an email on the first day of the semester saying she was proud of her students and that she would always be there for them if they needed her.
Lasher said the student-driven nature of the award made receiving it particularly humbling.
“When our provost read the comments students made about me, I was truly amazed and honored to know that I had made an impact on them during their first year at WCU,” said Lasher.
She said welcoming students to the university community where they have chosen to spend the next four years of their lives is a privilege.
“I like to compare my love of first-year students to a research study, which found that patients reported a better experience if a nurse offered them a warm blanket while they were waiting for surgery in hospitals,” said Lasher. “I strive to be that ‘warm blanket’ for first-year students.”
Student nominators said Perry made them feel welcome, gave outstanding advice, had in-depth conversations with them, and was someone they considered a friend and mentor. One nominator said Perry had lunch with the student to talk about goals outside of college.
Perry said he recognizes the importance of a student’s first year and cited research that suggests the first weeks of the first semester are essential to a student’s success.
“I like to think of the first impression as a pivotal moment,” said Perry. “The first impression coupled with first action and first experience is imperative. Students love to see follow-through. I think that is something that is nearly impossible to fake. That is how I live my life as an FYE Advocate – with focus on follow-through. Luckily, the students I work with make it worth it – well worth it.”
“I continually remind students that the time, energy and other resources that are invested in them cannot go to their head; that investment has to go to their heart,” said Perry. “The time, energy and resources that students invest in me are investments that have truly gone to my heart – and for that I am forever grateful.”
The 2013-14 graduate student FYE Advocate was Sean Vick, a graduate student in psychology. Student nominators said he has been a positive person who was enthusiastic about what he taught and went out of his way to help students.
Other awards presented at the celebration included honors for students who participated in the EYE on FYE contest. Students submitted original works that expressed how they connect the dots between personal interests and abilities, general education, programs of study, general electives, experiential learning opportunities and other co-curricular activities. Adam Bullard of Carthage won the creative writing category for his poem “Reflection.” Madison Pressley of Stallings won the visual art category for her collage “Dream Big Imagination – Alice in Wonderland.” Patricia Brown of Statesville won the video category for her work “EYE on FYE.”
The Ripple On Award, bestowed to a student for service learning, community engagement and active citizenship achievements, was presented to Tyler Melvin of Hickory, and the Bucket List Award, bestowed to a student who completes the most items on a freshman year “bucket list,” was presented to Nicole Hayton of Concord.
In addition, Balsam Hall was named the PEAKS Residence Hall of the Year; Gabby Robinson, a senior from Charlotte majoring in emergency medical care, won the Outstanding Leadership Award; Brittnee Nicole Baskin, a sophomore from Greensboro majoring in motion picture and television production, was honored with the Director’s Choice Award; and the Office of Academic Initiatives won the 2013-14 FYE Partner Award.
A full list of honorees as well as videos associated with FYE will be posted online at the First Year Experience website.