Zoe FYE conference 2024

Oregon Tech Assistant Director for First-Year Experience and Student Engagement Zoé Smiley presented at the Annual Conference on the First-Year Experience (FYE) held in Seattle in February.

The conference, attended by approximately 1,400 professionals in student and academic affairs, shares best practices and innovations in FYE programs. Smiley's presentation centered on Oregon Tech's incoming student orientation program, SOAR (Support, Opportunities, Academic Success, and Resiliency).

Smiley shared highlights about the FYE program’s success in its third year since being updated and changes that were made last year based on conference attendee feedback and assessments. Changes included:

  • Moving parent and supporter orientation to the night of move-in to accommodate supporters' schedules.
  • Restructuring sessions to minimize sitting time and to enhance student engagement.
  • Separating professor panel sessions by the College of Health, Arts, and Sciences and the College of Engineering, Technology, and Management to provide targeted information to students.
  • Enhancing SOAR leader training to better prepare student leaders.
  • Hosting a student breakfast focused on diversity awareness and inclusion.
  • Introducing resilience workshops to equip students with coping strategies for setbacks and identify resources available.

"The goal of my presentation was to show conference attendees the benefits of incorporating program assessment from the beginning," Smiley explained. "By integrating assessment into the process, we streamline program building and ensure continuous improvement."

Looking ahead at SOAR, Smiley said SIB will continue to fine-tune the program based on student feedback. "We are incorporating more intimate conversations, smaller panels, and less sitting time to enhance the student experience," she stated.

SIB Director Thomas Arce shared that the dedication of SIB to supporting Oregon Tech's First-Year students is evident in their commitment to student success from the first day, through new student orientation, and via ongoing co-curricular learning experiences provided to student leaders until graduation.

“Our dedication to innovative pathways for student success outcomes is demonstrated through opportunities like Zoé's presentation, which allows us to showcase Oregon Tech's strengths to our higher education scholar-practitioner community,” Arce said.

Also attending the conference with Smiley was Christopher J. Syrnyk, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Honors Program and The Office of National Scholarships at Oregon Tech, who is a new addition to SIB’s FYE think tank. Smiley said Syrnyk's expertise in student engagement and program development enriches Oregon Tech's FYE initiatives.

"Dr. Syrnyk's dedication to empowering students aligns perfectly with our mission to support students in their academic journey," Smiley said.

For more information about Oregon Tech's First-Year Experience program, visit www.oit.edu/campus-life.