Return to Program Profiles Lynchburg College

The Expand Your Horizons (EYH) program served 72 first-generation students at Lynchburg College who participated in the program during the 2010 and 2011 academic years. In addition to these students, the EYH program provided leadership opportunities for an additional 14 students who served as peer mentors in the program.
Lynchburg intentionally placed the program in the second semester of the first-year experience because the first semester already had significant support for all first-year students as well as targeted support for minority, Pell-eligible, and first-generation students. All first-year students at Lynchburg are part of the Connections Program, which includes the summer orientation and registration sessions that focus on academic integration; welcome week that focuses on social integration and building class identity; and the freshmen success seminar, a one-credit course that spans the first semester and addresses issues of transition facing most first-year students. In addition to programs for all first-year students, Lynchburg offers a Summer Transition Program that runs prior to the beginning of the fall semester and that now includes ethnic minority, Pell-eligible, and first-generation students. Once students complete this program they also are paired with a “Check-Mate,” a peer mentor who provides support for the remainder of the first semester. The Summer Transition Program has expanded from approximately 35 participants to more than 100 participants as a result of including students who meet one or more of the above criteria. 
Students in the EYH program were selected through an application process and began the program with a retreat on a Saturday in January. The retreat was designed to introduce the students to each other, their peer mentors, and the program’s faculty and staff. In addition, all of the students completed the StrengthsQuest inventory—an assessment designed to identify a person’s strengths and to help that individual use those strengths to pursue his or her goals. The outdoor leadership program staff members were involved to engage participants in challenging activities that increased the interaction and established a foundation of trust. (Students consistently rated the opening retreat as one of the strongest components of the program.)
Structured peer mentoring continued throughout the semester with regular one-on-one meetings between the peer mentors and the EYH students. Both parties highly regarded these sessions in which the students worked on their Four-Year Plans and discussed progress they had made toward their goals. In the first year of the program there were six peer mentors, all of whom were first-generation students. In the second year of the program there were eight peer mentors, again first-generation students. But of these eight, six peer mentors came from the first group of EYH students the year before. This was an important new development in the program because these experienced peer mentors offered significant insight into ways in which the program could be improved based on their own experience.
Each student was enrolled in two courses taught as learning communities in that the syllabi were coordinated and linked around key assignments. The most successful of these was offered in the second year when a career development course was linked with a symposium that focused on explorations of the self, college, and community.
The program also offered participants a mid-semester retreat and a year-end retreat.
The final element of the EYH program was the planning for the use of a $750 grant available to each student for an experiential learning opportunity. Although somewhat challenging, many students used these funds to attend conferences, study abroad, or pursue credit-bearing internships.

Program Outcomes

The first class of EYH students ended their first year with a 2.92 GPA, an improved academic performance when compared with a 2.86 GPA for all first-generation students in the freshmen class and a 2.86 GPA for the entire 2010–2011 freshmen cohort. The second EYH class earned a 2.96 GPA, compared with 2.84 for all first-generation students and 2.87 for all first-year students.
The program also achieved increased retention. For the EYH students, 76 percent returned for fall 2010 and 69 percent returned for fall 2011. This compared with 72 percent and 68 percent for all first-year students during those periods. Increased retention of male students also was a goal. Although this was achieved, the numbers were too small to draw conclusions.
EYH students reported improved career awareness through the career development course and the four-year plan that each developed. The institution was strengthened by the increased interest in experiential learning generated by the program and by what the institution learned about first-generation students, their diversity, and their challenges.

Program Updates

The EYH program continues at Lynchburg College. In 2012 a new position was created in the multicultural services office for a coordinator to work with first-generation students in general and the EYH program in particular.