URI names Richmond interim dean of University College

KINGSTON, R.I.– October 8, 1998 –Take 2,200 freshmen just out of high school and unfamiliar with campus life, add about 1,700 sophomores and toss in a few juniors who are trying to make a decision on a major. What have you got? You have the main ingredients of Dr. Jayne Richmond’s new job as interim dean of URI’s University College and Special Academic Programs. The focus of University College is to help students make the transition to URI and to lay the groundwork for their academic success here. What’s the typical freshman at URI like today? “They’re brighter, scoring higher on SATs. They come with very high expectations. Grade inflation in high school is fairly commonplace. Students expect to do well although they are studying less than students in the past, and they are working more hours at jobs both on and off campus,” says the new interim dean. “Then they hit the reality wall and the demands of college level work.” One way to ease the transition from high school is the mandatory freshman seminar, URI 101: Traditions and Transformation. Composed of no more than 25 freshmen, the classes are designed to help the new students get to know each other while familiarizing themselves to University resources such as the library and computer centers, and to learn how to support their academic experiences with co-academic involvement and opportunities like international study and internships. All classes have a community service component supported by the Feinstein Enriching America Program. The challenge, then, for Richmond is to coordinate 85 instructors, more than 100 upperclass mentors, and find community service opportunities for the 2,200 freshmen. No small task, but one that Richmond and University College’s competent staff can handle, considering that they traditionally handle more than 13,000 student advising appointments annually. Richmond, a Wakefield resident, loves the challenge. Friendly and energetic, the new interim dean came to URI from Kansas State University in 1986 as an associate professor of Human Development and Family Studies and has been the University College’s assistant dean for the past five years. Richmond oversees orientation, academic advising, and academic support services. There’s a lot of advising. “Almost 40 percent of our students are undecided about a major,” says Richmond. “Of the remaining 60 percent, about half of them change their minds sometime during their academic career.” The College also provides support services for student-athletes, transferring students, as well as exiting students. The College sponsors Phi Eta Sigma, the freshmen honors society, University College Scholars, and help for students in danger of failing. The College also sends out mid-term reports. “University College is home for our new students,” says the interim dean. “It’s the one central place where freshmen can get most of their needs met. We try to help our students better understand the commitments they must make.” Richmond says getting a complete profile of students is key to the College’s effective support. Working with URI’s Office of Institutional Research and conducting surveys, Richmond continually seeks answers to the questions: Who are our students? What helps them be successful? Giving students on-line information is another priority this year. University College has a Web Page where all the 101 class material and information will be posted. Richmond hopes to add academic advisors’ information, photos, and e-mail addresses on the page, as well as forms that students need. Another priority is curricular innovation. Integrating leadership, community service, and experiential learning into pilot courses, as well as freshmen “learning communities” offered by teams of faculty members, could be eventually be incorporated into the University’s general education program. Richmond is taking over the reigns for Dean Diane Strommer who is on leave to help establish a new women’s university in the United Arab Emirates. -xxx- For More Information: Jan Sawyer, 874-2116