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National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

About Paul P. Fidler

The Paul P. Fidler Research Grant was designed to encourage the development and dissemination of knowledge that has the potential to improve the experiences of college students in transition. The grant is named in memory of Dr. Paul P. Fidler, whose pioneering research on student learning and success had a vital impact on work being done to promote the success of all students in transition.

During Paul P. Fidler’s time at the University of South Carolina, university President Tom Jones implemented a number of experimental programs to help students be successful and for faculty to better understand students. One of the programs implemented during this time was the University 101 first-year transition course. After President Jones left the university, the interim president needed to determine which of these programs would stay. Fidler led the assessment effort for University 101, which indicated that students who took this course outperformed those who did not. 

Paul was one of the pioneers of the modern assessment movement. He was doing assessment before it came into vogue, beginning in 1974, some 11 years before the first national conference on assessment was held in 1985, not coincidentally in Columbia, co-hosted by USC and the American Association for Higher Education. Paul’s model for assessing the outcomes of first-year seminars was widely replicated.

John Gardner

His assessment saved University 101 and ultimately led to its national prominence among first-year seminars. This national model was the basis in creating the organization now known as the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. Because of Fidler’s work and dedication, the National Resource Center has the opportunity to influence student success today. 

"I owe the resilience of the University 101 program, flourishing now for 45 years, more than anything to Paul’s pioneering assessment process for University 101 outcomes. It was his credibility and evidence that persuaded people to get behind University 101, and the rest is history. Others have contributed greatly to this legacy, but Paul provided the evidence that really won over doubters." — John Gardner

During his time at the University of South Carolina, Fidler served as a faculty member of the Higher Education and Student Affairs (HESA) program, as director of the Career Center, director of an early version of the Advising Center, and as an early assessment expert for the Division of Student Affairs. 

Beyond his achievements and contributions to the field of higher education, Fidler is remembered as a kind, respectful, patient, devoted, and dedicated husband, father, colleague, and professor. 

“He was always the perfect, kind soul. He was a really kind, decent, hardworking, sweet, positive person, so he would always light up a room just by being Paul.” — Julie Rotholz 

“I have never seen anyone more patient and unselfish towards one’s family members. Same was true of his relationships with his university family.” — John Gardner

His hard work and dedication to the field and positive, devoted character only made it more appropriate for Stuart Hunter to suggest naming this grant after him. 


He was the one who assessed University 101, which was the basis of the National Resource Center. It makes sense.

Stuart Hunter


Fidler, P., Neururer-Rotholz, J., & Richardson, S. (1999). Teaching the freshman seminar: Its effectiveness in promoting faculty development. Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 11(2), 59-73.

Fidler, P. P., Poster, J., & Strickland, M. G. (1999). Extra hands for tough times: Utilizing campus ministers for student development in public institutions. College Student Affairs Journal, 18(2), 16.

Barefoot, B. O., & Fidler, P. P. (1996). The 1994 National Survey of Freshman Seminar Programs: Continuing innovations in the collegiate curriculum. The Freshman Year Experience (Monograph Series No. 20).

Fidler, P., & Moore, P. (1996). A comparison of effects of campus residence and freshman seminar attendance on freshman dropout rates. Journal of The First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 8(2), 7-16.

Fidler, P. P., & Godwin, M. A. (1994). Retaining African-American students through the freshman seminar. Journal of Developmental Education, 17(3), 34.

Pritchard, C. J., & Fidler, P. P. (1993). What small firms look for in new-graduate candidates. Journal of Career Planning and Employment, 53(3), 45-50.

Barefoot, B. O., & Fidler, P. P. (1992). 1991 National Survey of Freshman Seminar Programming: Helping first-year college students climb the academic ladder. National Resource Center for the Freshman Year Experience, University of South Carolina.

Fidler, P. (1991). Relationship of freshman orientation seminars to sophomore return rates. Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 3(1), 7-38.

Fidler, P. P., & Fidler, D. S. (1991). First national survey on freshman seminar programs: Findings, conclusions, and recommendations. National Resource Center for The Freshman Year Experience, University of South Carolina.

Fidler, P. (1986). Comparison of USC Entering Freshmen 1975 to 1985.

Fidler, P. P., Gardner, J. N., Hiers, J. M., Zuidema, J. E., & Meabon, D. L. (1978, March). University 101: A model for student and faculty development. Paper presented at National Conference on Higher Education, sponsored by the American Association for Higher Education, Chicago, IL.

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