The First-Year Odyssey Seminar Program provides all first-year students an opportunity to explore, engage, and experience the breadth and depth of the academic culture at UGA through approximately 375-400 topics a year based on faculty scholarship. Seminars promote meaningful dialogue between students and faculty in a small class setting that encourages reflective thinking and learning to learn. The program provides exploration of the unique learning environment at UGA, including opportunities to engage in research, public service, and varied forms of instruction, both on campus and globally.
Since its inception in 2011, more than 25,000 students have completed a First-Year Odyssey Seminar. Faculty from every school and college—and more than 85 departments—have participated in the program.
Goals of the FYOS Program include:
Goal 1: Introduce first-year students to the importance of learning and academics so that we engage them in the academic culture of the University.
Goal 2: Give first-year students an opportunity for meaningful dialogue with a faculty member to encourage positive, sustained student-faculty interactions.
Goal 3: Introduce first-year students to the instruction, research, public service and international missions of the University and how they relate to teaching and learning in and outside the classroom so that we increase student understanding of and participation in the full mission of the University.
A recent look at data suggests that the FYOS program has had a positive impact on student retention rates and grade point averages, particularly for students who take these classes in the fall semesters. We typically offer around 320 seminars each fall, with another 50 in the spring semester. In the first four years since the program’s inception in 2011, students who took a fall semester FYO class were on average 4% more likely to stay at UGA than those who took a spring semester FYO seminar. A consistent pattern developed also for academic performance; fall semester students in the FYOS program achieved their predicted academic performance each year, while spring students under-performed slightly, with a difference in GPA ranging from 0.11 to 0.19 of their predicted GPA.
This effect shows up even after controlling for the factors that we know impact student success—such as whether the students were first-generation in college, their academic ability, race, gender. Of course, student success is affected by a number of variables, and there is a good chance we have not measured or even considered several factors that may impact these findings. Nevertheless, our initial study of the FYOS outcomes suggest that it is helping our students in exactly the way the program is designed to do.