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This was the third First-Year Experience (FYE) conference I have attended, and while not a traditional “library conference,” there are always many librarians who attend and there is always useful content! I began planning for this conference almost a year in advance. I had been looking for a place to present on the Faculty Fellows Program and a place to present on the new model for the first-year summer reading project, “Project Wake“. FYE 2016 seemed like the perfect conference for both presentations! With over 1900 participants from all division of higher education, these two projects involving first-year students seemed like a great fit! Once accepted, Christy Buchanan, Senior Associate Dean of Academic Advising, professors Barbara Lentz and Erica Still, and myself began preparing our presentations. Fortunately, there was overlap on the panels for these presentations, with three of my four co-presenters getting two opportunities to present.

Our first presentation, “WFU Faculty Fellows: Embedding Faculty Without Living in the Halls“, was very well attended. When we polled the room, about 1/3 of the audience had an residential faculty fellows model, only a couple of other schools had a model like WFU. It was fun to present on this topic and the audience had great questions. There were many schools there interested in replicating the WFU model. Our second presentation, “The Uncommon Common Reading Project: Bringing Choice Around a Theme“, drew a smaller, but equally engaged crowd that appreciated our creative model for the optional summer academic project that allowed student to choose from one of 22 different books.

Once we had our presentations out of the way, it was easier to focus on all the other amazing presentations at this conference. One theme that is saw across several presentations was financial literacy, something I know is important for our students and one of the dimensions of THRIVE. One presentation on this topic focused on the fact that “one size does NOT fit all” and showed tools like “CashCourse” that can help students. I also attended a variety of sessions on student engagement and retention. Always popular topics at this conference!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing keynote by Brian Murphy, president of De Anza College in Cupertino, CA., a community college that consistently ranks #1 or #2 in the state for the total number of students who annually transfer to University of California and California State University campuses. He focused on how we might think about students in transition if we want to better prepare them to engage the social and political world they inherit. He reminded of us John Dewey’s famous quote, “Democracy has to be born anew every generation, and education is its midwife.”

Lastly, I want to mention the Rosen Centre that hosted the conference. I was curious because rarely is a large convention center book ended by two hotels of the same name that aren’t nationwide chains. I did some research and learned about Harris Rosen, the founder of Rosen Hotels & Resorts. Rosen is widely known in the Central Florida area due to his philanthropy.