Date of Award

Spring 5-8-2018

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in First Year Studies

Department

First-Year and Transition Studies

Committee Chair

Dr. Richard D. Mosholder

Additional Committee Member

Dr. Stephanie M. Foote

Additional Committee Member

Dr. Linda Lyons

Abstract

Colleges and universities are constantly facing a changing student population. Just as soon as the faculty and staff at these institutions had figured out how to work with and guide Millennial students, particularly in their first-year seminar programs and the transition into college, the generation make-up once again shifted and Generation Z came on stage. This left colleges and universities, particularly small colleges already stretched in terms of resources and manpower with a need to shift their focus to provide first-year seminar programs that would best serve this new generation. Born out of that, this study was designed to identify the unique characteristics of Generation Z students and use those characteristics to re-envision an existing first-year seminar.

This student demographic shift came at the same time that Trinity Christian College, in Palos Heights, Illinois, began the process of rethinking their first-year orientation course and seminar, called First-Year Forum (FYF 101). In order to ensure that the changes that were being considered addressed the unique demographics of Generation Z while being flexible enough to adjust to the needs of future students, research and data on Generation Z and the students’ perception of the current program had to be acquired in order to give recommendations to shape new first-year seminar programs, both at Trinity and other schools in the process of re-envisioning and reshaping their first-year seminar programs. This study sought to discover the characteristics of Generation Z, particularly focusing on the ways in which they learn, their educational needs, and the areas in which they may struggle in their college transition through student perception data that was collected through quantitative and qualitative methods. Data collected from Generation Z students at Trinity Christian College during the Fall of 2017 and the National Survey of Student Engagement administered in the Spring of 2017 revealed that students are responding in alignment with Generation Z themes of high anxiety and stress over the practical ins and outs of daily living and thriving on the college campus. In addition, the study revealed that students, as is consistent with Generation Z, are looking for deeper relationships and connections with professors and do not come to college understanding confidently how to write papers or evaluate sources for research. Survey data indicated that participants were looking for a program that prepared them for living on campus and social adjustment more than learning about thematic issues or concepts valued by the college.

Using the collected data, case study examples of schools who seem to have already adjusted their first-year programs to meet the needs of students were examined. In addition, the responses of student participants shaped recommendations for the future of the first-year program at Trinity Christian College and the re-design of the program that will be inaugurated in the fall of 2019, as well as can give guidance to other small colleges and universities as they re-design their first-year programs for this new generation.

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