June 12, 2018
College of the Ozarks establishes “First-Year Communities” Hard Work U. students built shelves, organized community thrift stores, landscaped, and cleaned at both Rockaway Beach and Golden, Missouri, for a community service day on April 28, 2018.
L-R) Junior Hallie Harper, freshman Daytona Shelton, and junior Haley Anderson work along with several College of the Ozarks first-year students who served in the local community on April 28, 2018.
POINT LOOKOUT, MO. — During the 2017-18 academic year, College of the Ozarks began a new initiative designed to help students understand and master the developmental tasks associated with entering a college atmosphere. First-Year Communities were established in specific residence halls — including Foster, Memorial, and Youngman — where freshmen live together exclusively.
These communities help foster growth outside the classroom by equipping new students with the tools needed to enhance spiritual identity, develop interpersonal skills, and promote academic progress. Students in these communities live with other like-minded peers and engage in campus life together.
“The idea for The First-Year Community initiative was sparked when I began researching student engagement and the factors associated with student success,” said Dr. Nick Sharp, dean of students. “Students are heavily influenced by a variety of factors, including their interaction with others and the college environment. First-Year communities play a key role in the student’s ability to successfully engage campus in ways that promote social, academic, and interpersonal development. Not only do these communities serve as the student’s home, they are considered an extension of the classroom.”
“The purpose behind these dorms is to help these first-year students be the most successful — academically, in student life, and in residence life,” said Brandon Bliss, director of residence life. “Our programming, events, and staffing are all geared towards setting them up to be the most successful in their college career.”
Benefits of First-Year Communities
Implementing these communities has long and short-term benefits for the students, such as helping them develop conflict resolution skills, time management skills, and providing the opportunity to build meaningful relationships. First-Year Communities are led by experienced residence life staff who model positive Christ-like character while aiming to cultivate a mentality of grit in their residence.
“It is well known that students who are well-adjusted in areas of basic need such as housing and relationships are better able to apply themselves successfully to academic endeavors,” said Dr. Eric Bolger, dean of the College and vice president for academic affairs. “From an academic perspective these communities are significant because they should help students adjust socially, emotionally, and spiritually to life on campus. They are also more likely to persist in their studies at the College.”
“We hope that first-year students will better understand how to manage their organizational, time management, and relational demands in ways that grant them confidence to step into their sophomore year,” said Jenna Simmons, residence director of Foster Hall. “We hope the students will carry these skills into their second year and build upon them, fostering motivation and resilience.”
Building blocks of the First-Year Experience
These communities participate in a variety of activities, events, and programs that allow them to experience a well-rounded college transition. New students who are working the summer work program will first encounter Base Camp, a summer-long program to orient students to the College. Base Camp is a program designed to assist freshmen students participating in the Summer Work Program in obtaining the personal skills necessary to be successful in college. The program focuses on the strategies, habits, and values necessary for students to take charge of their own academic and personal development. Emphasis is placed on value clarification and goal setting, self-management, self-responsibility, self-esteem, and building supportive relationships.
“The coordinated efforts of First-Year Communities and Base Camp are setting students up for success by equipping them with tools to help them persist during an often overwhelming time of life,” said Dr. Sue Head, vice president for cultural affairs and dean of character education.
Similarly, all incoming students attend Character Camp, a week-long student orientation hosted the week prior to a new semester, which acclimates all new students to campus life. Other First-Year Community experiences include a formal dance for first year students, a community service day, hall events, and more.
First year students joined residence life directors and assistants to volunteer for a community service day in Rockaway Beach and Golden, Missouri, during the spring semester on April 28, 2018.
Students from Foster and Youngman Residence Halls traveled to Rockaway Beach to work alongside Bridge of Faith Church, while freshmen from Kelce, Mabee, and Memorial Residence Halls served at Kids Across America (KAA) in Golden, Missouri. Students served in a variety of ways from landscaping to building storage shelves, cleaning, organizing, working in Bridge of Faith’s two thrift stores, and preparing the cabins at KAA for the upcoming summer program.
Some of these events are new at C of O, having begun with the implementation of the First-Year Communities. Others were already a part of the first-year student experience.
“The goal at C of O never changes,” said Simmons. “However, as students change so will our approach to help them reach that goal.”
About College of the Ozarks
College of the Ozarks is a private, Christian, liberal arts college, located in Point Lookout, Missouri, on a 1,000-acre campus. Christian values, hard work, and financial responsibility comprise the fundamental building blocks of the “Hard Work U.” experience. The College earns numerous accolades yearly, including No. 1 Best Value Regional College in the Midwest and No. 1 Most Innovative School in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report for 2018. To achieve its vision, the College pursues academic, vocational, Christian, patriotic, and cultural goals. These goals are mirrored in School of the Ozarks, a laboratory school that completes the K-college model.
The Keeter Center — the College’s award-winning lodge, restaurant, and conference facility — was ranked a Top Small Hotel in the U.S. by TripAdvisor for 2018. It features historic lodging, fine dining, and meeting rooms. With more than 350 student workers, it is the largest work station on campus. Follow College of the Ozarks at www.facebook.com/collegeoftheozarks or on Twitter @CofOHardWorkU.
06.12.18 – Brittany C. Weaver