Chancellor’s Chairs – Shauna Pomerantz & Dawn Zinga

Photo of Dr. Shauna Pomerantz and Dr. Dawn ZingaAssociate professors Shauna Pomerantz and Dawn Zinga, Child and Youth Studies, hope to find ways to make the transition from high school to first-year university easier for students.

Pomerantz and Zinga have long been working on improving the experience of their first-year majors by experimenting with different technologies, innovative assignments and creative approaches to student support in CHYS 1F90, a full-year introductory class that usually houses more than 700 students per year.

Funding from the Chancellor’s Chair award is supporting their full-scale project, The First Year Experience: Retention and Academic Success. The CHYS 1F90 classroom becomes their lab to collect data from a large sample that will be of value to others at Brock and in the wider teaching community. Their research project will examine factors that help students adjust to university expectations, and determine how well students adapt to learning technologies like Isaak/Sakai.

They expect to receive ethics approval to begin focus groups with first-year students as of August 2017.

Victoria Parlotre, a research assistant on the project, completed a literature review of the first-year experience. She found that there wasn’t a lot of literature that looked at the bigger picture of the first-year experience.

“While retention and outreach are a major impetus for this research, since teaching CHYS 1F90, we have both come to understand just how much students struggle to survive their first year,” says Zinga.
“The impact of this transition cannot be underestimated in their lives. This population needs support and we are grateful to be able to offer what we can.”

The project will also take a closer look at structures and teaching strategies in CHYS 1F90, such as help clinics that give students additional opportunities to go over material with teaching assistants.

In 2016, the department introduced a new initiative, a day-long “boot camp” that provided struggling students with workshops on essay writing, time management, stress management and general advice from senior students and faculty members. Pomerantz and Zinga are members of the boot camp committee, chaired by Fran Owen, and plan to use the financial support provided by the Chancellor’s Chair award to help fund future boot camps, as well as study its effectiveness for first-year success.

“Academic boot camp provides enormous support for those struggling and in need of real advice and help,” explains Pomerantz. “We care deeply about the first-year experience, and want to ensure that our teaching is not only about content, but also about developing skills in our students that will last a lifetime.”

READ MORE ABOUT DR. Pomerantz and Dr. Zinga IN BROCK NEWS:

First-year student experience focus of research