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Series of Essays on the First-Year Initiative Benchmarking Study
Randy Swing
August 28, 2002

Randy L. Swing serves as Co-Director and Senior Scholar for the Policy Center on the First Year of College located in Brevard, North Carolina.  Randy joined John N. Gardner and Betsy O. Barefoot in establishing the Center with funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts in 1999.  With prior funding from The Atlantic Philanthropies and current funding from the Lumina Foundation for Education, the Policy Center developed its signature project, the Foundations of Excellence® in the First College Year, an aspirational model for excellence and processes for assessment and improvement planning.

As part of the Policy Center’s core staff, Dr. Swing was involved in every aspect of developing the Foundations of Excellence project and led the development of the Current Practices Inventory, a campus audit of first-year practices, and the Foundations Performance Indicators, achievement measurements of each of the Dimensions® of the Foundations model.  Randy worked intensively with Aurora University, Franklin Pierce College, Georgia Southwestern State University, Illinois State University, Plymouth State University, and SUNY College at Brockport in the original field test of the Foundations model.

During the Center’s first five years, Dr. Swing’s work focused on developing new tools and techniques for evaluating the efficacy of first-year initiatives.  Building on a philosophy that assessment is a means to an end (not an end in itself), his work has enabled colleges to improve the first college year for students through data-driven decisions.  His leadership roles include contributing to two national surveys of first-year students, Your First College Year (YFCY) and the First-Year Initiative (FYI) benchmarking survey.  Since joining the Policy Center he has presented over 150 workshops, conference sessions and keynote addresses at national and international conferences on the first-year, institutional research, college teaching, and higher education assessment.

Along with Policy Center colleagues, he is co-author of the 2005 Jossey-Bass book, Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College.  He edited two monographs on first-year assessment, Proving and Improving: Strategies for Assessing the First College Year and Proving and Improving (II): Tools and Techniques for Assessing the First College Year and contributed two chapters to Challenging and Supporting the First-Year Student: A Handbook for Improving the First Year of College (Upcraft, Gardner, & Barefoot, 2005).  His research on first-year seminars and assessment has been widely disseminated through the First-Year Assessment Listserv (FYA-L) and included in Assessment Update and About Campus.

Until 1999, Dr. Swing worked for 20 years in a wide range of first-year programs at Appalachian State University.  Most recently, as founding director of the Assessment Office, he developed and initiated a longitudinal, campus-wide assessment program with focus on learning outcomes.  Earlier, he co-developed the Freshman Seminar Program, founded an Academic Advising Center for freshmen and sophomores, and coordinated an Upward Bound program for low income, first-generation students from rural Appalachia.  These programs received national awards for excellence including Time Magazine’s 2001 College of the Year award for outstanding service to first-year students and 3rd best in the nation by US News and World Reports in 2002.

Prior to earning a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Georgia, Dr. Swing earned M.A. and Ed.S degrees in student development from Appalachian State University and a B.A. in Psychology from the University of North Carolina – Charlotte. He serves on the Editorial Boards for the Journal on Excellence in College Teaching, and the journal of Innovative Higher Education.  In 1999 he received a National Science Foundation Summer Fellowship to study public opinion of educational policy.

In addition to his appoint at the Policy Center, he is a fellow at the National Resource Center on The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina and has an honorary appointment as Visiting Associate Professor at Kansai University of International Studies in Japan.


The First-Year Initiative (FYI) benchmarking study was launched in fall 2001 to assess and benchmark the learning outcomes of first-year seminars.  The links below contain essays, study results, and brief reports of key findings.

Introduction (Adobe PDF)

Essay One / Overview, August 28, 2002 (Adobe PDF)

Essay Two / Engaging Pedagogy, September 6, 2002  (Adobe PDF)

Essay Three / How Many Weekly Contact Hours Is Enough?, September 17, 2002 (Adobe PDF)

Essay Four / What Type of Seminar is Best?, September 27, 2002 (Adobe PDF)

 

 

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