Welcome Weekend Launches Moreau First Year Experience

Author: Lisa Walenceus

Amid all the Welcome Weekend excitement of moving into their residence halls, meeting other members of the Class of 2019, and getting to know the Notre Dame campus, first-year students also went to their very first class.

The inaugural sessions of the Moreau First Year Experience took place on Saturday, August 22, 2015. After a plenary event moderated by (The Rev.) Hugh R. Page, Vice President, Associate Provost, and Dean of the First Year of Studies, and Erin Hoffmann Harding, Vice President for Student Affairs, one hundred and nineteen instructors from more than 50 academic and administrative units at Notre Dame held their first classes with over 2,000 students to launch a new Notre Dame tradition.

Administered by the First Year of Studies, the Moreau First Year Experience, a two-semester course sequence of FYS 10101 and 10102, was developed in collaboration with the Division of Student Affairs to help students effectively meet the challenging issues they may confront as they seek to become responsible, compassionate, and productive members of our University community.

“FYS 10101 and 10102 really were created with students in mind,” says Maureen Dawson, assistant dean in the First Year of Studies and director for the course. “In the nearly two years we spent designing it, we talked with faculty, campus professionals, alums, and students — they all generously shared their expertise and perspectives with us to help us build an innovative approach to supporting our new students. We are grateful that many of our contributors are continuing to help by participating as instructors.”

These courses are graded and carry one credit hour per semester, meeting 50 minutes each week for thirteen weeks. Course content is delivered online; time in class focuses on student-centered discussion and integration which bring together issues relating to academics and campus life. Course topics include orientation to university life, strategies for health and wholeness, community standards and cultural competency, approaches to academic success and career development, and cultivation of spiritual life.

“The Moreau First Year Experience offers another opportunity for students to create community by arranging sections by residential ‘neighborhoods,’” Erin Hoffmann Harding explains. "It is my hope that this course will help them better understand the unique elements of a Holy Cross education and use this knowledge to successfully facilitate their immersion into university life.”

Dean Page outlines the goals for the course. "Overall, the Moreau First Year Experience allows us to create an environment in which students can do three things. The first is to think in an integrative manner about the educational experience shaping them and the Congregation of Holy Cross charism that informs it. The second is to empower them to become full partners in the learning process and assume greater responsibility for what and how they learn. The third is to help them gain greater comfort in talking about issues that matter — for example cultural competency, wellness, discernment, personal development, and academic integrity with peers and mentors — while at the same developing a personal action plan that fosters emotional, spiritual, and intellectual growth.”

Rooted in the values of a Holy Cross education as established by the Blessed Basil Moreau, FYS 10101 and 10102 are based in Notre Dame’s long-standing recognition that education is a complex process best addressed holistically — cultivating both the mind and the heart. The Moreau First Year Experience complements the individual attention, advising, and academic support offered by First Year of Studies and the pastoral care provided in the residential communities. All of these efforts seek to establish students as engaged members of a learning community where values and opportunities can be explored and cultivated.