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Wednesday, October 11 • 9:00am - 9:30am
The Urban Immersion Advantage: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on First Year Immersion Classes and Student Retention for Universities with Non-Traditional Student Populations (30 mins)

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This paper makes the case for First Year Immersion Classes as a way to increase student retention, especially in public urban universities like the University of Southern Maine (USM) that tend to have a high percentage of first generation, non-traditional students with significant challenges to completing a degree such as working full-time and family responsibilities. Tourism & Hospitality (TAH) is one of the fastest growing degree programs at USM and the Department of Environmental Science & Policy (ESP) has one of the highest retention rates of all programs. Both TAH and ESP work together and require an Intensive Immersion Class for all new majors. This class brings students to a Maine summer camp for a long weekend of meeting faculty and community partners, working on group projects, getting introduced to the professional practices that will make them successful in class as well as in the workforce, and just as importantly, building a sense of community among themselves. According to research by Sanford and Michaud-Stutzman, USM students not only value community-engaged learning activities in their classes for the knowledge and job connections that they gain, but also for the community it builds with their fellow students working together on something challenging and meaningful. This sense of “belonging” is argued to be a vital factor for success in college and an important driver in the retention of students in non-traditional, urban Universities. First Year Immersion Experiences directly foster this sense of community right from the start.


Robert Sanford

Professor of Environmental Science & Policy, University of Southern Maine

Tracy Michaud Stutzman

Chair, Tourism & Hospitality, University of Southern Maine

Wednesday October 11, 2017 9:00am - 9:30am MDT
Colorado C