Dalton State Introduces Program to Engage, Help New Students


Engaging students in their first two weeks of college is especially critical when it comes to their success and longevity at an institution.

Because of that Dalton State has developed a new initiative directed at helping students transition to college.

Perspectives began this semester to engage freshmen and help them learn what it means to be a college student doing college-level work, said Matt Hipps, who oversees Perspectives and is an associate professor of political science.

“We recognize that an effective first-year course needs to be more than just an extended orientation class,” Hipps said. “The purpose is really twofold. First, we want to offer students an engaging and challenging course that serves as an introduction to college work. Secondly, we want to ensure students are welcomed into higher education by faculty members who understand the needs of first-year college students. These faculty members teach their courses in a way to ensure success for new college students.”

At Dalton State, where more than 60 percent of the student population is made up of first-generation college students, this engagement becomes even more critical. These students typically haven’t been exposed previously to a college environment and don’t have familial support to help them navigate the transition to college life.

The hope is this program will be more effective at improving graduation and retention rates and will further Dalton State’s mission to become a first-choice destination college.

“Studies show if we can keep students engaged in their first few weeks of college, we are significantly more likely to retain those students at our institution,” Hipps said. “In addition, we know that if we offer students a chance to really get to know an instructor early in the semester, we begin the creation of a support system for that student, making the student feel more connected to Dalton State.”

Perspectives fits in with the University System of Georgia’s Momentum Year initiative, which is designed to ensure students are successful in their first semesters on campus leading to a better college experience and to students graduating on time.

“This supports the Momentum Year initiative by providing incoming freshmen with opportunities to explore their chosen major at the very start of their college career,” said Dr. Pat Chute, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs. “We hope that by offering them a glimpse into their future profession they will discover the purpose of the core courses they will be taking to support their educational growth. In the long run this should contribute to retention progression and graduation.”

The program is comprehensive and spans the first two years of a student’s college career. The program includes an introductory course, supplemental programming, and a mentor program in the sophomore year. Faculty will be paired with sophomore students to help them engage in academic and social activities that are focused on students’ career paths.