In 2002, I was asked to take over as director of NIU's First-Year Composition (FYComp) program from Bob Self, who had developed the program into one of the most technology-rich writing programs in the country through integration of computer lab digital writing pedagogy into the curriculum. In my first year, with the FYComp Committee, I developed program outcomes based on the WPA Outcomes Statement, and, with the help of the Inter/National Coalition on Electronic Portfolio Research, Brad Peters, and Eric Hoffman, began piloting an assessment process using Electronic Portfolios, which, with support from the Office of Assessment, has developed into programmatic initiative that integrates student self-evaluation with class and program assessment.
The FYComp Committee (FYCC) meets twice a month to make decisions about policy, working conditions, professional development, textbook selection, and program publications, among other issues related to the maintenance and development of the program. Out of the FYCC emerged our monthly First Friday Colloquia series, our annual Showcase of Student Writing, and Y1Writes, a collection of the best FYComp student writing used as a text in many FYComp classes.
Recently, our program has been involved in new efforts to improve student retention and academic success. In spring 2014, we embedded 18 FYComp Peer Advocates in sections of ENGL 104 to act as role models, mentor first-year students, and help them engage in the NIU community. Fall 2014 will see the expansion of the pilot to 30 classes, helping brand-new NIU students in ENGL 103 to become involved in NIU activities and succeed in their course work.
For more information about FYComp and what we're up to, see the FIrst-Year Composition website.