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ROAR 1199: Helping ISU Students Find Purpose and Support in College

December 7, 2022

Two girls sit on the grass.

As young adults go to college and experience new environments, relationship challenges, class schedules, and perhaps living away from home for the first time, navigating college can seem overwhelming.

ISU offers many avenues of support to students, including academic advisors, clubs and student activities, campus recreation, career help, health services, and counseling. But navigating all of the new aspects of college can be challenging for students. 

ROAR 1199 is a class designed to help. 

Course units include six modules which are Information Literacy, Your Purpose, Motivation & Career, Persistence in Learning, Your Money & College Costs, Your Story, & Your Well-being. Specifically students learn about campus resources such as the Career Center and the Counseling Center and how to access them. 

Elisa Johnson, Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Communications, Media, and Persuasion, has been involved with the course from its inception three years ago as an experimental course. Johnson said that since its beginning, the class has been modified to better meet student needs.  

For example, they learned that students needed more focus on financial literacy. And this year, the wellness section was also updated by Communications, Media, and Persuasion Department Chair Jim DiSanza. 

“We’ve updated the wellness section to add happiness,” Johnson said. “This is the first semester and it’s been exciting.”

In the course, students also learn how they learn and strategies for studying. The class focuses on a growth mindset. 

“In ROAR we spend a whole unit learning about how to learn, using knowledge of neuroplasticity to help us understand why certain learning/reading/note taking strategies work better than others,” said Elise Barker, adjunct instructor in Department of English and Philosophy and a ROAR 1199 instructor. “That is so helpful.”

Johnson said that one of her main goals is to get students to consider how they can advocate for themselves and do the things they want to do.

Importantly, students receive guidance about how they are in charge of their own stories. The course helps them identify why they are at ISU and what their purpose is. Barker said that ROAR 1199 is an opportunity for students to explore their identity.

“Freshman year is such a huge year for the growth and development of the self for college students; their values, beliefs, and assumptions are challenged as they meet people from different communities and attend classes that expose them to new ideas,” Barker said. “Understanding themselves -- their skills, values, aptitudes, personalities etc. is key to making good choices throughout college.”

Barker said that the first unit of ROAR emphasizes having a clear sense of purpose, which can get students through the tough times in college. Her students go through a process of writing purpose statements from the first week of class. She has them revise their statements, which she said helps them establish clarity of vision. She then encourages them to write or print it and display it where they can see it so they have that reminder. 

Sarah Liftawi, Visiting Criminology Lecturer and Field Director in the Department of Sociology, Social Work, and Criminology teaches the synchronous online section of ROAR 1199. 

“The majority of the students in my section of the course are remote students, completing their college courses exclusively online,” Liftawi said. “ROAR discusses many of the opportunities ISU provides for students, like assistance from the Career Center, Career Path Internship positions, and CALM - which are all university resources that students not living in Pocatello are still able to utilize.” 

Liftawi said that one of her favorite parts about teaching the online ROAR section is hearing how students are glad they chose to take the course because it gives them information and resources they likely would miss out on by not being physically on campus. 

“The students who are not remote, but chose the online section discuss how taking this course has allowed them to gain background knowledge of strategies to be successful in college, while being able to maintain their role as a primary caretaker or their position in a full-time job,” she said.

Liftawi, Johnson, and Barker all say that the course is about building relationships and having fun. It’s a low-stress way for students to discover more about themselves as college students and the resources available to them, while experiencing an accepting and welcoming community and being guided by a faculty mentor.

“One of the things that is often reported over and over again from students is this idea of community and being able to go somewhere and being completely comfortable and making friends,” Johnson said.

Another important relationship is that which is established between the instructor and the students. 

“I’ve had lots of students share personal things with me like considering dropping out of school,” Johnson said. “I get them the resources to really help them find their way so they can continue.”

“The class works,” Johnson said. “We’ve seen that students are coming back in the spring and continuing to go to school.” 

ROAR 1199 is taught by instructors from the College of Arts and Letters and the College of Education, with the goal that other colleges will join in the future. It is a 3-credit course designed to help first-year college students adapt to their new learning and living environment. Idaho State students and faculty teamed up to design this course, which helps students save time and money and succeed in their classes.

Roar 1199 courses will be offered on the Pocatello campus, with one online section for Spring 2023. Course sections are MWF 10-10:50 a.m.(online), 12-12:50 p.m., or 1-1:50 p.m. or TR 9:30-10:45 a.m.

To register for ROAR 1199, contact your assigned academic advisor. If you are unsure who your assigned advisor is, contact roar@isu.edu. More information can be found at isu.edu/roar-1199.



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