Freshman Fit: A Collaborative Approach to First-year Engagement Practices

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Pruitt, Courtney Lynn
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Middle Tennessee State University
With college completion and retention rates moving to the forefront of education efforts, student engagement has earned the interest of many scholars, university efforts, and funding agencies. Student engagement is typically defined as the time and energy students invest to educationally purposeful activities and the effort put forth of the institution (Leach, 2017). Student engagement encompasses what students do that leads to success in their learning. Another key factor when looking at student success is the idea of sense of belonging, which is an important factor for both retention and engagement. Belonging is defined as a student’s sense of being accepted, valued, and encouraged by teachers and peers, and the associated idea that she or he is an important part of the campus community (Thomas, 2012). Campus recreation, a department typically located within student affairs, can play a vital role in increasing student engagement and sense of belonging through programming. The purpose of this qualitative program evaluation was to explore Campus Recreation programming, specifically Freshman Fit, and any associated student engagement behaviors. Specific behaviors that were explored are sense of belonging and social interactions. This qualitative program evaluation explored the participants’ perception of the program as it relates to their own engagement at the university, and the role engagement plays in their defined success at the university.