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McKay and Kaskel recognized for their FYE achievements

Loyola press release - February 7, 2011

Two staff members of Loyola University New Orleans have been nationally recognized for their achievements in spearheading development of the First-Year Experience program.

Melanie McKay, Ph.D., vice provost for faculty affairs, and Roberta Kaskel, director of the Career Development Center, have been named to the honor roll of Outstanding First-Year Student Advocates by the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. The center supports and advances efforts to improve student learning and transitions into and through higher education.

As part of its mission to educate the whole person, Loyola implemented a comprehensive First-Year Experience program this fall to promote student success in the crucial first year of college. The program has a dual focus: introducing students to the rigors of college-level work and helping them become part of the Loyola community. The academic component is grounded in small seminars for all first-year students, developed under the overarching theme “thinking critically, acting justly.” The seminars are special-topics courses conducted by leading Loyola faculty. All feature an interdisciplinary approach to knowledge and an exploration of values. According to Provost Edward Kvet, D.M.E., “Faculty and students alike praise the seminars as exciting, imaginative and rigorous. As an addition to our introductory common curriculum, these seminars have already begun to make a significant impact on first-year students’ academic engagement.”

The classroom experiences are enriched by co-curricular programs that expand on the academic themes being explored in class. The co-curricular programs bring students from different first-year seminars together, giving them the chance to expand the circle of peers with whom they share intellectual and social interests. Activities this year have ranged from film-and-pizza nights to private tours at the World War II Museum; participation in the Congo Rhythm Festival; productions of the Children of the Latina and the Exonerated Prisoners Voices; and talks by James Kofi Anan and Cheryl WuDunn. All activities have culminated in student reflection and discussions.

For the past two years, McKay and Kaskel have worked with a task force of faculty and Student Affairs staff to develop the program. According to Vice President of Student Affairs, M.L. “Cissy” Petty, Ph.D., “The work Melanie and Roberta have done on this program has crossed the line that is too frequently drawn between academic life and the student development life of a college. They have done a great deal to build a richer community for Loyola students. They, however, would be the first people to say that the honor belongs to the faculty and staff who teach in the program.”

For more information, contact James Shields in the Office of Public Affairs at 504-861-5888 or jshields@loyno.edu.