FYRE (First Year Residential Experience)

Freshman FYRE


The first year of college for all students should be an enjoyable experience filled with plenty of opportunities to get involved and meet new people.  The First-Year Experience also known as the Freshman-Year Experience is a program designed to help students prepare to successfully transition into and through their first year of college. FYE programs have both academic and co-curricular components.  The First Year Residential Experience program is intended to connect and engage students living in first year residence halls.  The goal of FYRE activities and events is to help enhance the freshman experience and have a positive impact on retention.


Founded in 1887 as a school for the education of American Indians, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke now serves a distinctly diverse student body and encourages inclusion and appreciation for the values of all people. The University of North Carolina at Pembroke challenges students to embrace difference and adapt to change, think critically, communicate effectively, and become responsible citizens. Retrieved from https://www.uncp.edu/about/mission-statement

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The Office of Housing and Residence Life offers residential students the opportunity to be part of a community that is clean, safe and respectful; a community that is interactive and conducive to academic, educational, and social development.  The department provides qualified staff to help meet the needs of residential students, as well as, a comprehensive programming component. Students who become actively involved in their community will discover a variety of programs and activities to complement their educational pursuits and enhance their on-campus living experience.  The Residence Life program offers residential students the opportunity to be a part of a community that is clean, safe and respectful; a community that is interactive and conducive to academic, educational and social growth and development. Residence Life provides qualified staff to help meet the needs of students living on campus, as well as a comprehensive programming component. Students who become actively involved in the Residence Life program will discover a variety of programs and social activities to compliment their educational pursuits and enhance their on-campus living experience. https://www.uncp.edu/campus-life/housing-and-residence-life

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Historical Perspective for Supporting First-Year Students

The academy has known for over a century that first-year students face unique challenges. Boston College pioneered the first Freshman Orientation class in 1888 (Gardner, 1986). Reed College (Portland, OR) became the first institution to schedule an orientation course for credit when, in 1911, they offered a course separated into men-only and women-only sections that met 2 hours per week for the year (Gardner, 1986).

Orientation classes acquired their modern form in 1972 when, after a series of campus riots then University of South Carolina President, Thomas Jones asked faculty to develop innovative ways to rethink undergraduate education. Jones' goal was to help students appreciate the university and not destroy it (Schroeder, 2003). History professor John Gardner helped develop what eventually became known as the First-Year Experience, or FYE (Schroeder, 2003). Gardner, in an interview with Schroeder (2003), defined FYE as a national and international efforts to improve the first-year, the total experience of students - and to do this intentionally and by rethinking the way the first-year was organized and executed' (p. 10).

As competition for students has increased during the last quarter of the 20th Century, institutions turned their focus on the needs of entering students in an effort to make their institutions more appealing. The popularity of programs targeting the first-year students soared. Over the years, an organized transition program has become a cornerstone of the new student experiences at campuses across the country. When Gardner (1986) found that freshmen who complete orientation courses were retained at a higher rate than those who did not take such a course, the demand for first-year services led to the establishment of a National Resource Center based at the University of South Carolina. By 1995, Gardner (2001) noted that 82% of participating institutions reported a significant focus on the first-year experience. In 2005 the 24th annual FYE conference drew over 1200 administrators, faculty and students and The National Resource Center for First-Year Experience & Students in Transition produced many publications including a monograph series and a bi-annual journal, The Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.

Components of successful transition programs

Betsy O. Barefoot (2000) outlined a number of objectives needed for a successful first-year transition program. Key are student-to-student interactions and student-to-faculty interactions. Barefoot found that student time and involvement on campus outside of class must increase, and a link between the curriculum and co-curriculum areas should be established.

Bigger, J.J. (2005). Improving the odds for freshman success. Retrieved from NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Website: http://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Clearinghouse/View-Articles/Advising-first-year-students.aspx


Guidelines for Excellence in FYE

Young & Keup (2018) CAS First-Year Experience Cross-Functional Team Framework

  • Is guided by goals related to institutional mission
  • Includes more than one and preferably many elements of the curriculum and co-curricular
  • Focuses on the success of a large number of first year students, including those from special populations
  • Has strong administrative supporting leading to institutionalization, resource allocation, and sustainability
  • Built on assessment activity leading to constant improvement

Jennifer R. Keup - National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

Summarizing the research on first-year seminars, Pascarella and Terenzini (2005) concluded that first-year seminar participation “has statistically significant and substantial, positive effects on a student’s successful  transition to college and the likelihood of persistence into the second year as well as on the academic performance while in college and on a considerable array of other college experiences known to be related directly and indirectly to bachelor’s degree completion” (p. 403).

Most studies have shown that first-year seminar participation results in a number of benefits for students and institutions, including improved retention and graduation rates, higher number of credit hours completed at the end of the first postsecondary year, higher grade point averages, improved student adjustment and involvement, and greater student satisfaction (Hunter & Linder, 2005; Ishler & Upcraft, 2005; Padgett & Keup, 2011; Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005; Tobolowsky, Cox, & Wagner, 2005).

Furthermore, limited research focuses exclusively on racial and ethnic minority students’ experiences in first-year seminars. In one of the few studies examining this phenomenon, Musoba, Collazo, and Placide (2013) found that Hispanic and Black students reported that a first-year experience course helped them with their sense of social connection with the university through transition friends and learning about university opportunities. 

Students’ Perceptions of the Impact and Value of First-Year Seminars at a Hispanic-Serving Institution by Jamie N. Riess


What is a Residential Curriculum? Curricular Approach? Residential Learning Model?

More and more, residence life and education programs are moving to a curricular approach for their educational efforts, but what is a “curriculum”? In informal discourse the term “residential curriculum” is used to describe an intentional way of promoting learning in college and university residence life and education programs. A residential curriculum, however, is a very specific approach to structuring these learning opportunities.

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First implemented in the early 2000s, the Model was detailed in a 2006 article, “Beyond seat time and student satisfaction: A curricular approach to residential education,” in About Campus magazine by Kerr and Tweedy. This approach leads to the establishment of ACPA’s Residential Curriculum Institute in 2007. Since then, the curricular approach has become increasingly common and popular. In his 2015 work, Student Learning in College Residence Halls, Blimling provides an overview of the curricular approach and related models for designing residential education initiatives. A follow up article in 2017, “Shifting to curricular approaches to learning beyond the classroom,” by Kerr, Tweedy, Edwards, and Kimmel, further refined the Model.

Residential Curriculum at UNC Pembroke...how it came about

The UNCP Housing and Residence Life team attended the ACPA Residential Curriculum Institute at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg VA, in October 2014. The team was comprised of the Director and Associate Director for the department as well as two Community Directors; one from a traditional residential community and the other from an apartment community. During the conference, the team learned of the key components needed to begin drafting a residential curriculum. After an extensive week of presentations and workshops on residential curriculum models, strategies and case studies, the team returned to campus with a skeletal framework to use in the beginning phases of drafting a curriculum that would not only fit campus culture, but would align with the educational priorities the team developed and identified during the conference as well as with the CAS (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education) standards that the department had began working on in summer 2014 in preparation for CAS review in 2016.

First Steps

The first step to developing any residential curriculum is to determine the educational priority(s) for your particular campus. Another way of describing this function is to determine what as a department do you want to focus on, in other words, “what do we want our students to learn or take away,” from our programming and community development efforts? This statement then becomes the educational priority. After the educational priority statement was developed, the next step was to set learning goals based on the educational priority. The learning goals indicated specific areas we would focus on to help meet the education priority. With learning goals in place, we began working on identifying a number of strategies we believed would assist in meeting the learning goals. This is specific activities, programming or processes that would take place within our residential communities or university wide that would support the learning goals. The final steps were developing learning outcomes and a method or methods to assess anticipated learning outcomes.

Development Phase

In anticipation of the development and implementation of a Residential Curriculum, the Residence Life Staff under the leadership and direction of the Associate Directors of Residence Life began transitioning from a traditional programming model to a curricular approach in the fall 2014. This process began with several very comprehensive brainstorming sessions designed to help reprogram mindsets as it related to programming and community development approaches. Prior to these sessions, staff was asked to read a series of journal articles on residential curriculums as well as visit the websites of a number of universities currently using residential curriculum models. These sessions focused a great deal on learning outcomes based on CAS standards and were largely successful.

Implementation Phase

In August 2014, a modified, rudimentary version of a residential curriculum was introduced in campus housing with the understanding that a full curriculum will be in the development phase for at least a year. The goal at that time was to push for a full residential curriculum roll-out in fall 2015. Community Directors were responsible for overseeing the development of programs along with Resident Advisors. The process included the development and writing of learning outcomes based on the CAS model using Bloom’s Taxonomy verbs for each program and identified an: audience, behavior, condition and degree for each outcome. Additionally, each program had to meet one or more of the following: UNCP Strategic Plan, Student Affairs Mission, and Housing & Residence Life Missions and/or CAS Outcome domains. This modified version proved highly successful, and the following academic year saw the full implementation of the Residential Curriculum within campus housing.

What is the goal of the Residential Curriculum at UNCP?

This experience encourages students to be BRAVE: Boldly pursue opportunities that promote academic progress; Respect for self and others; Acquire skills that build career readiness; View every experience as a learning opportunity; and Endeavor to develop greater critical thinking and problem solving abilities.

Be Brave
Learning Outcomes

Through participation in residential curriculum programming and activities, residents will learn valuable information and develop skills that will help them become successful students, citizens and professionals.  The residential curriculum has four (4) focus areas:

Residential Curriculum
Academic Progress & Achievement
  • Improve basic skills needed to demonstrate academic success
  • Identify & utilize various campus and academic resources
  • Increase student’s knowledge of academic integrity
  • Improve critical thinking & problem solving skills to help in decision making
Diversity, Inclusion & Civility
  • Develop skills to engage in positive behavior & respect towards others in their community
  • Develop an understanding, appreciation, and acceptance of individuals different from one’s self
Personal Development
  • Develop self-respect, ethics, and integrity
  • Improve overall health & wellness and learn to  live a purposeful life
  • Obtain greater knowledge and skills related to career development
  • Develop meaningful relationships & effective communication skills
  • Develop effective leadership & teamwork skills
  • Engage in opportunities to learn & engage in dialogue related to the human condition
  • Support causes that create positive change in our community/world
  • Seek out opportunities that help develop a spirit of volunteerism and provide avenues to serve


Implementation Strategies

How will the residential curriculum be implemented in my community?

The following strategies will be utilized in implementing the residential curriculum.

  • Intentional Conversations (Brave Talks)
  • Living and Learning Programming
  • Bulletin Boards
  • Hall Council & Residence Hall Association Involvement
  • Floor and Hall Meetings
  • Social Norming Campaigns
  • Roommate Education Workshops
  • Conflict Mediation and Disciplinary Conferences
  • Service Projects & Initiatives


In order to ensure integration of the Residential Curriculum within the first year communities, it was important that we were intentional in using the foundational components of the curriculum as the building blocks for the Freshman FYRE program.  The four learning goals of the Residential Curriculum were used to develop the four focal areas for the FYRE program.  Although there are specific learning outcomes identified for the program, there is also some overlapping of anticipated learning outcomes from the Residential Curriculum.

Residential Curriculum Goals


There are five signature components of the FYRE program designed to help students successfully transition to UNCP and become an active community member:

1. Live with other First-Year Students

Our FYRE program provides the opportunity for incoming first-year students to live with one another as a cohort and create new and lasting friendships. This is an awesome way to begin their UNCP experience here on campus. First-year students will have the opportunity to meet many of their classmates and develop lasting friendships, attend interesting and engaging activities, and engage in important discussions about life on campus by being apart of the first year experience.  Overall, students living in the First-Year Residential Experience will have high levels of satisfaction with their residence hall experience.

2. Structured Points of Contact with their RA (Brave Talks)

We guarantee that each student will have at least two structured points of contact with their RA during a semester. While students and RAs will be in contact throughout the academic year, these meetings are opportunities to focus more specifically on transitional issues, access to academic resources, and opportunities within the community. Students have the opportunity to share their UNCP experience, ask questions, and hear about important campus resources like the Writing Center, Tutoring Services, Academic Advising Center, Career Services, Counseling and Psychological Services, and more.

3. Experience a First-Rate  RA to Student Ratio

Within the FYRE community, students will get to experience a low Resident Advisor (RA) to student ratio so they have access to, and attention from their RA year-round. This means that UNCP’s first-year students have more personalized attention, guidance, and mentorship from a  highly-selective and highly-trained group of upper-class student leaders.

4. Benefit from FYRE Mentors

Our FYRE program consists of an impressive group of UNCP faculty and staff who serve as educational mentors for  first-year students who are transitioning to UNCP. FYRE Mentors will be partnered with a residential community where they will participate in engaging events, engage students in interesting dialogue, and inspire curiosity in new topics.

5. Shape their Community Experience

FYRE offers increased opportunities for students to have a voice and involvement in shaping their community experience through engaging events with RAs, residential hall councils and RHA (a Social Programming & Community Advocacy Student Group). FYRE focuses on students as partners in creating and shaping their first-year experience. While RAs and FRYE Mentors will still provide leadership, mentorship, and resources to first-year students, first-year students will be invited to participate in their community by sharing ideas, interests, and helping advise community activities.


Through FYRE opportunities for engagement, students will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate knowledge of campus resources
  2. Develop the skills to build meaningful relationships with peers that may hold identities and backgrounds that are different from their own
  3. Engage in civil discourse with peers that have differing views than their own
  4. Develop a sense of belonging within the residential communities
  5. Develop a sense of allegiance, spirit and & pride for the university
  6. Make informed decisions that enhance their personal health and reduce personal risk
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The First Year Residential Experience cluster is an integral part of the overall first-year experience at UNC Pembroke. The FYRE cluster will provide relevant, experiential programming and services to encourage student development and academic success. By participating in 15 out of the 20 co-curricular events, residents will utilize Brave Connect to develop a co-curricular transcript and receive points to ideally secure priority status for the housing selection for the subsequent academic year. Furthermore, the program will track resident participation and engagement with all first-year programs and support services. At the conclusion of FYRE, the FYRE Committee will conduct program assessment to evaluate the effectiveness of the residential program, staff services, and future recommendations to make the program more intentional in its efforts to help acclimate students to the university environment.


  1. Institute FYRE Peer Mentors in each residential community to provide mentoring and academic support to first year students beyond what Resident Advisors are able to provide.


In order to effectively track event retention and student participation, the FYRE Committee will:

  • Use Brave Connect to track events.
  • Use card swipe to track student attendance and upload roster to Brave Connect.
  • Each program will be worth 1 point. Students who earn 15 out of 20 points from program attendance will earn priority status for the housing selection process.


The program will be assessed at a minimum semi-annually (Fall/Spring).  Planned assessments include but are not limited to the following:

  • Move-in Experience Survey
  • FYRE Kick-off Satisfaction Survey
  • End of Semester Focus Groups
  • Program Learning Outcomes Assessment

Questions for survey tools will be based and data, information and recommendations from the National Resource Center for the First Year Experience and will be built and distributed using Qualtrics.


  • Brave Connect co-curricular transcript
  • Early Room Selection for participants who earn the determined number of points
  • Custom FYRE T-Shirt
  • An incredible first-year experience
Custom FYRE T-shirt