USD’s Philosophy for the First-Year Student
The University of San Diego’s first year experience strives to build a community of engaged student learners who value academic excellence, intellectual, personal and spiritual development, inclusion, ethical conduct, and compassionate service. It integrates two core components: the Preceptorial Program (see description below) and the Residence Life living and learning environment.
The first year of college at the University of San Diego begins at the point of an undergraduate student’s admission to USD and concludes at the beginning of the following academic year. The University assigns a high priority to a student’s first year of college because the first year establishes an essential foundation for a successful educational and developmental experience. During the first year, students learn about the University’s mission, core values and expectations. As a result, students begin to practice the habits and skills of higher learning, thus helping shape the academic and social climate on campus.
Specific learning outcomes for the first year include the following:
- Understand the goals and purpose of a liberal arts education
- Move toward independent learning and critical thinking
- Practice effective study and time management skills for various disciplines
- Identify academic support resources and utilize them effectively
Diversity and Inclusion
- Develop a basic awareness of individual and cultural differences and similarities
- Recognize and challenge stereotypes and prejudice
- Interact with individuals with different cultural backgrounds in a respectful manner
- Critically reflect on and refine one’s faith, beliefs, and values
- Incorporate one’s beliefs and values into decision-making and behavior
- Expand understanding of different faith traditions
- Participate in the University’s Mission to serve with compassion, foster peace, and work for social justice
Leadership and Service
- Take initiative to positively influence the common good
- Take initiative to address conflicts and problems as they arise
- Learn about opportunities for involvement on and off-campus
- Take initiative to uphold an environment of ethical conduct and academic integrity
Responsibility for Self and Community
- Learn and comply with USD Student Code of Rights and Responsibilities and relevant local, state, federal and international laws
- Make appropriate choices regarding personal and community safety
- Recognize impact of one’s actions on the community
- Accept responsibility for behavior
- Interact respectfully and effectively with faculty, staff and administrators
- Collaborate effectively with others to accomplish common goals
- Resolve conflicts in a rational and respectful manner
- Establish and sustain positive relationships with members of the same and opposite sex
- Identify and manage stress and the demands of a new environment
- Make healthy choices regarding physical and mental well-being, fitness, nutrition and the use of alcohol and other drugs
- Recognize, manage and express emotions appropriately
- Identify and effectively utilize wellness resources on campus
Specific learning outcomes are matched with experiences common to all first year students and include the following:
- Students participate in a brief orientation program prior to the start of classes
- Students participate in an ongoing orientation throughout the first year
- Students connect with a faculty advisor who assists students in planning a cohesive and productive program of study
- Students participate in a Preceptorial class
- Students participate in the Core Curriculum
- Students connect with a successful continuing student
- Students begin to develop a USD Student Learning and Development Transcript
- Students participate in a service activity
- Students attend a USD sporting event
- Students attend a cultural event on campus
- Students visit a San Diego landmark (e.g. Balboa Park, Birch Aquarium at Scripps, Cabrillo National Monument, Old Globe Theater, Old Town, San Diego Mission, San Diego Zoo, San Diego Wild Animal Park, Sea World, Petco Park)
The Preceptorial Program was implemented in 1973 to deal with the serious attrition problem that USD was experiencing at that time. The program was an immediate success and it grew year by year as the size of the freshmen class increased. Through this period of development, the benefits for the student were elaborated and clarified but the primary goal of providing effective academic advising to freshmen has remained unchanged. As stated at the institution of the program, the preceptorial program should:
- Introduce the student to the intellectual resources of the University
- Encourage the student to develop the inquiring habit of mind that is fundamental to higher education
- Assist the student in planning a cohesive and productive program of study
- Provide for early and continuing communication between the student and the advisor.
While the advising focus of the program has not changed, in recent years various aspects of the responsibilities of faculty who participate in the program have become clearer. Their special role as the students' initial contact with the intellectual climate of the university enables the preceptors to be influential in instilling habits and values which will put the students on the right path for their years at the university and beyond. Indeed, reinforcing a positive orientation to intellectual values and academic achievement should be a primary purpose of the preceptor.
1. The Intellectual Atmosphere
An essential component of the preceptor's role is to foster and promote the intellectual atmosphere of the University. The students need to view the learning experience as the central purpose of university life. Through discussions with the students and/or the manner in which the preceptor approaches the subject matter of the preceptorial course, the students' intellectual orientation can be addressed. Preceptors should guide the students in both concrete steps, such as learning to make use of the resources of the library and making study time a priority in their daily schedules, as well as in less tangible approaches to enhancing their mental growth.
Some important guidelines for the stimulation of intellectual inquiry include the following:
- Helping students recognize the limits of their knowledge and motivating them to learn.
- Emphasizing the process of learning instead of just the end product.
- Approaching the learning experience as a collaborative adventure.
- Challenging students and encouraging the active and critical evaluation of their beliefs.
2. The Preceptorial Course
The preceptorial is an academic course that provides freshmen with an introduction to some area of knowledge. Originally all preceptorial courses met some general education requirement, and all were three or four unit courses. This is no longer the case--at the present time there is great diversity in the types of courses offered. Some preceptorials are traditional general education courses in a specific discipline while others are interdisciplinary courses examining a problem or issue from several perspectives. Still others are innovative approaches to traditional subject matter or courses of a more experimental nature.
3. Advising - General Responsibilities
In addition to teaching the preceptorial course, the preceptor serves as the academic advisor for students in the course from the time they enter USD until the end of their sophomore year. By that time, students should be encouraged to either declare a major (where the advising responsibility shifts to the major department) or they should be referred to the Dean’s office, which provides academic advising for undeclared students.
In general, academic advisors work with the student both on procedures for completion of the degree and on development of the skills needed to make informed decisions. Academic advising is not simply passing out PINs. Advisors assist with information about academic policies, course selection, registration procedures, and graduation requirements as well as facilitating decision-making about educational goals, alternatives, and career needs. The preceptor must be available to provide counseling on an ongoing basis and must be knowledgeable about such matters as academic integrity and the support services available to students. The preceptor should assist in the student's orientation to the new academic environment and provide appropriate referral to campus offices that deal with specific student problems. Preceptors are encouraged to inform students of the various support services available (e.g., career counseling, personal counseling) and to work with these services as appropriate to promote their use by students. For example, the Library routinely contacts preceptors about making a presentation to students. Although preceptors are not required to do so, many make arrangements for their preceptees to tour the library facilities or to have librarians brief students about specific resources which are available.