First-year cohort meeting

In keeping with Oregon State University’s mission to serve all Oregonians as the state’s land grant university, President Ed Ray and Dean Scott Ashford have challenged the College of Engineering communities to strive to increase student success.

To that end – and inspired by feedback from alumni that relationships with faculty and staff played a key role in student success and retention – the School of Civil and Construction Engineering (CCE) developed a committee to launch a first-year cohort program at the beginning of this academic year.

“The mission of the program is to build and strengthen the school community from the first year through graduation and into professional practice,” said Whitney Korthauer, academic advisor and founding program committee member. “Through regular cohort meetings with faculty mentors and other activities, students are learning more about CCE, engaging with faculty and staff, and getting to know their fellow students.”

Program activities include meetings with faculty mentors at coffee shops or other locations outside the traditional academic atmosphere. There is no homework or course credit in the program. Rather, the cohort activities are all about conversation and connection. Faculty mentors are encouraged to organize outings based on their own interests, such as hiking, cycling, and attending concerts.

“Some cohorts are even meeting on the weekend, which shows amazing commitment by those faculty members and students,” said Judy Liu, professor of structural engineering and the program’s coordinator.

To encourage participation, prizes are awarded to cohorts based on the amount of points accrued by attending a meeting, posting selfies with a Benny Beaver cutout at CCE events, and answering quizzes about weekly school news.

“In a recent study by Gallup, four-year graduation rates increase dramatically when students are engaged in an extracurricular activity and can work with faculty members who care about their success,” said Jason Weiss, school head and Miles Lowell and Margaret Watt Edwards Distinguished Chair in Engineering. “The program is designed to foster these activities by helping students to engage earlier with student organizations, faculty, and staff and build a supportive scaffold from the time they join Oregon State.”

The program has participation from about 190 students and 34 faculty mentors.

“Students are happy to know there’s a mentor here for them — a recognizable face who can answer questions and be a resource,” Korthuaer said.

– December 2018