While there have been 37 First-Year Experience Conferences, this is only my fourth. My first FYE conference was in 2008, and I try to attend this annual conference as often as possible! The focus on first-year students draws together faculty and staff from across the academy. While it’s great to hear presentations on library-related topics like fake news, it’s also useful to attend sessions on advising, orientation, and common read programs as well.

Every year the keynote speaker on Saturday evening is someone guaranteed to get the conference off to a running start. This year was no exception. Spelman President Emeritus, Beverly Tatum, had the 1700 attendees captivated for her entire keynote! She talked about her “ABCs” of working with students; affirming identity, building a shared sense of community, and cultivating leadership, and when asked if she ever found herself in situations where she was “preaching to the choir” her response was “the choir needs rehearsal too!”

As a regular attendee at this conference, I know to sign up for all the free author dinners and lunches. Publishers host these meals and bring in authors to speak in an effort to get schools to select these books for their common read programs. Signing up for these events gave me the opportunity to hear some wonderful young authors speak about their work, and I brought back twenty free copies of books for our next “Blind Date with a Book” event!

FYE Books

The two full days of the conference are Sunday and Monday, my first session was “Free Range Advising: Meeting Students Where They Are” which had great ideas to make advising more accessible and made me feel very good about our advising model at Wake Forest. The next session, “Orienting the Scholarly Mindset: Placing Scholars Center stage” described an amazing program where faculty and students share their stories, TED Talk-style at a first-year orientation event with all the new students in attendance. We were able to watch one of these online, and it was impressive. They are scripted and rehearsed but delivered in a very approachable way, and most importantly, the format resonates with students. Another wonderful program on Sunday, “Getting Real About Fake News: FYS and Media Evaluation” was presented by librarians from Davidson College, where there was a strong desire to address Fake News after alumnus, Cameron Harris, published a Fake News story that made national headlines. (Very timely, as Roz and I will be referring to this in our LIB290 class on the same topic!)

On Monday night, a group of librarians attending FYE met up for dinner at a nearby restaurant. This group has grown from 6 librarians who met 5 years ago to 35 at this year’s meeting! This was a great opportunity to meet other librarians involved with supporting first-year students, and I met several who want to team up and submit a panel presentation on “Extreme Outreach” for FYE 2019.

FYE 2018 Librarians

Other awesome sessions included on storytelling called: “Exploring Storytelling as a Professional Practice and Pedagogical Approach” that indicated positive results when sharing our own experiences around success, failure, and grit with first-year students, and a session on the success of including Information Literacy instruction in Summer Bridge Programs. My favorite program was a toss-up between two: one presented the data gathered from the 2017 National Survey of First-year seminars and the other was a presentation by our own Wake Forest faculty about the “Collaborative Development of a Homegrown College Transition Course”

WFU Presentation at FYE 2018

All in all, it was a productive three days in a very chilly San Antonio! I’m already looking forward to the next FYE conference I can attend!