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Sources: Emily Lehning, 785-532-6237,;
and Sarah Tedford, 785-532-6541,
News release prepared by: Katie Mayes, 785-532-6415,

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


MANHATTAN -- For some first-year students, the transition from high school to college life can be difficult.

To help incoming students cope with those challenges, Kansas State University is launching the GPS -- or Guide to Personal Success -- program.

The program, based on one with the same name offered at George Washington University, provides incoming students with a stronger connection to campus by matching them with a mentor.

K-State first started thinking about the experiences of incoming students and how they might impact retention a few years ago, according to Emily Lehning, assistant vice president for student life. A task force then investigated ways to create a unified first-year experience for students.

"K-State offers many programs and services for new students," Lehning said. "Our group is always looking for creative, low-cost ways to help more students be successful in the critical first year of college."

The first step, taken in the 2008-2009 school year, was the introduction of first-year seminars. The seminars are capped at 22 students and provide interactive learning that is connected to campus events and activities outside of class. The purpose of the seminars, as well as other student retention efforts on campus, is to make sure students get more individualized attention and are connected to campus, thus increasing the chances of success.

"As they get more involved, first-year students are more likely to persist on through that first year and, we hope, on through future years," said Sarah Tedford, the program's organizer and coordinator of K-State's Healthy Decisions.

The Guide to Personal Success program will build on the first-year seminar program by matching the students with a faculty or staff guide.

"These guides will know campus resources inside and out so they can ensure students are getting the support they need to help them succeed," Tedford said.

At a minimum, mentors and mentees will meet three times in the fall and twice in the spring, though more frequent communication via e-mail and phone will likely take place, Tedford said.

Tedford also said that in the first year of the program, faculty mentors and students will not be matched based on academic discipline because program organizers want new students to be exposed to a variety of majors and programs on campus. Guides also will not serve as academic advisers, but rather as an additional resource for students.

"The GPS program will provide students with an assigned 'go-to' person for quick answers to their questions and access to some of the top leaders at K-State," Lehning said.

Tedford said that there will be around 100 guides for the roughly 400 students in the seminars this first year. As with the first-year seminars, students are not required to take part but are strongly encouraged to do so. Students not enrolled in the seminar program also can take part, though initially they'll be placed on a waiting list.