First-Year Program helps CET freshmen achieve student success

As freshmen and transfer students in East Carolina University’s College of Engineering and Technology (CET) step on campus for the fall semester, they will have the backing of a unique program designed to help accelerate their personal, academic and professional growth.

It’s called the First-Year Program (FYP), and it includes Living Learning Communities, career planning, mentorship and advising, all with the goal of “reaching the whole student,” said Brad Collier, assistant director of first year and transitional programs for CET.

“It’s a multidimensional program,” Collier said.

Freshmen Isabel Sanchez, from New York, gets help with class scheduling from College of Engineering and Technology advisor Jason Denius.

First-year students who have declared their majors as well as those intended first-year students who have yet to declare a specific major within the college are eligible for the program.

The goal is to provide resources for students in choosing an appropriate major and career path, provide programming to enhance the students’ first-year experiences, provide advising to help students choose appropriate courses in their first year, and guide students through alternate programs of study as needed.

And, it starts the first day students arrive on campus on Tuesday. Volunteer faculty, staff and students with the college are scheduled to help students on move-in days, making that connection during the first moments they arrive at the residence halls. More than 450 freshmen and more than 330 transfer students have enrolled in CET courses this fall.

Dr. Harry Ploehn, dean of the college, compares the FYP with ECU’s athletics programs that provide multiple coaches and a training regimen to guide student-athletes as they prepare for competition.

“We want every CETstudent to receive the same individualized preparation that our athletes receive,” Ploehn said. “Every student has a coach. Every student has a plan.”

Every incoming first-year student will be connected with a Student Success Coach, and every student will collaborate with their coach to develop a CET Student Success Plan as part of the FYP. The goal is to get students thinking about what they want to do in their lives and careers, rather than just planning what courses they’ll take next semester.

The plan will summarize the students’ current thinking about their academic and career goals, explore their choice of major and examine possible barriers to success at ECU. Students and coaches will outline action plans for personal and professional development as well as specific next steps to put their plan into action.

“We want to make sure we catch these students early on so that they are thinking about the really important questions, deep questions to help them figure out who they are and what career path is really right for them,” Collier said. “That needs to come first, before we help them find the right classes toward the proper degree for whatever career they want to pursue. All of our students need to think critically about what they want to do with their lives.The FYP and Student Success Plan will get them thinking and planning early so they’re not spinning their wheels in programs that aren’t going to help them meet their personal goals and career needs.”

The FYP has also partnered with a company, Mentor Collective, to launch a cloud-based system to match freshmen with upperclassmen who’ll serve as student success mentor-coaches. Collier said about 75 upperclassmen have signed up so far, but even more are needed. Each freshman and their mentor-coach will meet and discuss various aspects of student life, such as career development, study skills and time management, to name a few, all culminating in the development of the freshman’s Student Success Plan.

Brad Collier, left, assistant director of first year and transitional programs for the College of Engineering and Technology, helps freshman Shaquez McNair, of Plymouth, with class scheduling.

“They can talk online, through texts, phone calls or face to face,” Collier said. “Our goal is not quantity of meetings, but quality of meetings. The mentor-coach is there to answer questions and to be a sounding board to help the freshman navigate the first year of college and develop a solid Student Success Plan.”

Some CET freshmen may also be part of the college’s two Living Learning Communities (CREATE LLC and Engineering LLC) in which students with similar majors and career paths are grouped together in the residence halls. The LLCs offer programs that help the students adjust to the college environment so that they can be successful in the classroom and in society.

“All of the initiatives, programming and activities of the First Year Program are aimed at helping students gain critical information and experience they need to develop well thought-out Student Success Plans, test their assumptions and help them make the best possible decisions on degree path, career path and action plans to achieve those goals,” Ploehn said.

The program also goes beyond just academics, Collier said.

“We understand that we’re here to meet their educational needs, but we want to expose them to other things,” he said. “Just because you’re an engineering major doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate art, or you can’t enjoy going to the theater. There are opportunities for these students to attend cultural events or even becomeinvolved in such events.We want to reach the whole student, the entire person. Everyone is multifaceted, and we don’t want to pigeon-hole our students just because they are in the College of Engineering and Technology. We want to expose them to all kinds of opportunities here at ECU and in Greenville.”

For more information on the program, go online to