Kerry Temple '74 | April 2, 2019
Near the end of the conversation, Elly Brenner told a story that goes back to her days advising students in Notre Dame’s First Year of Studies. She was at church and a former student approached her.
“He came up,” she recalls, “and he said, ‘Elly, I don’t know if you remember me.’ And it’s Joe. Of course, I remember Joe. He was a good student; there was nothing that would present itself as being at risk, right? But he had a complicated story, and we talked a lot. And he said, ‘Elly, I wouldn’t have stayed at Notre Dame if it weren’t for you. I would have left after freshman year.’ And that just makes you feel good.”
She is talking about the dissolution of First Year of Studies, where she worked for more than a decade, and her new role as assistant provost for academic advising.
For decades, University viewbooks and recruiting materials touted First Year of Studies (FYS) as a valuable bridge year, easing high school graduates into the rigors of university-level academics. It helped them adjust to the independence of life away from home. It gave them a menu of required courses. And it offered guidance, counseling and advising with professionals trained to help first-year students succeed in college.
“I don’t want to lose those connections,” she says of her new and expanded role. “Academic advisers are one of the pieces of the fabric that makes Notre Dame a family for those freshmen, and we need to continue that.”
The curtailment of FYS, which functioned as its own college with deans such as Emil T. Hofman, Eileen Kolman and Hugh Page, was a byproduct of a recent review of Notre Dame’s core curriculum. Students will now be allowed more flexibility to spread their core courses over a four-year period rather than taking their required classes all in their first year on campus. The change is intended to expand opportunities for a student to sample courses or take advanced courses sooner. The curriculum will also focus less on providing introductions to specific disciplines but allow students to go deeper sooner into various fields of study.
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