Dragon Success eases transition to college

Transitions are difficult for anyone at any age. Many people have to make it through these transitions without help. Luckily for MSUM students, the transition into their freshman year is looking to be made easier by a new required course.

Replacing Health 122: Alcohol and College Life, this new course, called Dragon Success is currently in its pilot stage, and a number of incoming freshman this year are enrolled.

“It would be fair to say we’ve got feedback that Health 122 is probably not contributing to retention or giving you a chance to interact with faculty,” vice president for academic planning Denise Gorsline said.

Gorsline and her fellow board members who took part in planning this course change agree that interaction with faculty is quite important for incoming freshman.

“Not just freshman, but all students connect with some adult,” Gorsline said. “As you’re an upperclassmen, it is probably your adviser, but until you have a major or you get to know your adviser you won’t have that person. So, the idea of this is that it gives them that connection immediately.”

Not only will a connection be made between freshman and a faculty member, but teaching assistants, called Dragon Success leaders are also to be used in the Dragon Success classrooms.

“Research tells us, if you have a TA (Teaching Assistant) and you’re having some problem in class, you’re probably going to be much more comfortable saying, ‘I don’t really get this,’” Gorsline said.

Throughout the class, students are encouraged to speak out about any questions they have. Gorsline had the opportunity to substitute teach for one of the classes recently and found the questions the students asked to be enlightening.

“One of the questions was ‘should I get a job?’ and that is a really good question because in some ways, given student debt, you’d think everybody should get a job,” she said. “But I’m not sure for a first semester freshman.”

The course is more than just question and answer sessions with a faculty member, though. Like any other class, there is a list of learning outcomes.

“An example would be ‘we want you to learn how to maximize your strengths and minimize your weaknesses,’” Gorsline said.  “Another outcome is to help them be a part of our community.”

While the course will be replacing Health 122, the information found in that course will not be thrown out.

“It will include some of the kind of information found in Health 122,” Gorsline said. “But in a way that is meaningful and breeds discussion, and isn’t just viewed as an online class.”

Mariah Moltzan, a freshman who is currently taking a Dragon Success course, is thankful that she has this opportunity.

“My friends really dislike the alcohol class,” she said. “So I am glad I am in this one.”

Gorsline understands students’ disliking of Health 122.

“It’s just not the right way to start out as a freshman,” she said.  “I’d probably say online classes in general are not the best way to start out as a freshman. You don’t have an instructor to go see.”

Gorsline firmly believes that the values that were taught in Health 122 were important for students to learn, even if the way they were learning them were not the best.

“We appreciate the importance of decision making,” Gorsline said. “Certainly alcohol is part of that and making sure you know the consequences. I think some students are shocked at what happens if you get a minor. And we don’t want them to be shocked. We want them to know that before they act out that behavior. They still may, and I’m not saying we are going to solve all that, but at least students will consider the consequence of their behavior.”

Overall, the new Dragon Success course is being developed to help students with their transition into college life. While focusing on making a healthy connection with a faculty member as well as fellow classmate, Gorsline and her fellow board members want to help students be as successful as possible.

“It’s a transition to go to college, no matter how mature, worldly or bright you are. This is just about the whole transition experience,” Gorsline said. “It sounds corny, but sometimes people just need to know that they are not alone.”


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