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Connections and a Safe Space for Freshmen at ISU

January 25, 2024

ROAR 1101 is a three credit course designed to help first-year college students adapt to their new learning and living environment.

Daniel Shelden, associate lecturer in the Department of Communication, Media, and Persuasion at Idaho State (ISU), says the class presentations for the final project assignment blew him out of the water.

“The final projects I saw gave me a lot of hope and confidence that this course is doing good work,” Shelden says.

Two of the presentations especially impressed Shelden. Ty Brunkow presented a monologue about how they came from a town in which they had escaped some trauma. They came from an online school and they were worried about coming to an in-person campus and making friends.

Ty shared, “When I came to ISU I found a community for the first time. I had dozens of friends.”

Enrolling in ROAR during their first semester can help students envision a future career, practice productive learning strategies, and prioritize their own wellness as they earn their degree. Jim DiSanza, the ROAR 1101 course coordinator, took the basic outline of the course from a committee of faculty and staff and developed all of the lectures, activities, and exercises, to teach first year students academic success skills, financial and information literacy skills, and basic health and happiness information. 

Another student in Shelden’s class, Abigale Berg, shared an original piece of artwork, a drawing in three panels that represented her life metaphorically.

Abigale has had a fear of drowning since childhood. Abigale shared that this sense of drowning has followed her throughout her life, and not just a fear of drowning in water. Through the course, and her first semester at ISU, Abigale told the class that she feels like she’s on solid ground for the first time in her life. 

“It’s metaphorically like she’s using her legs for the first time,” Shelden said. “She feels like it’s a new world for her.”

Career and self-exploration are an important component of the class. As a result of self-exploration in class, Abigale declared a major in art. 

“She’s clearly very talented and passionate about art,” Shelden says. “She’s feeling more confident and ready to tackle life.”

One unique aspect of this course is that it’s taught by faculty members from across the university, from many different departments. Amy Jo Popa, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Art, and a ROAR instructor, said that she would summarize this course in one word: connections.

“Students in this course are making incredible connections,” Popa says. “They're making connections with people, connections with the resources that are available at ISU such as the Career Center, counseling, the library, and even free printing in labs. ROAR students are discovering these connections,” Popa says, “and that is amazing.”

On the final day in class Popa asked class members to share what about the class was most important to them. Many students shared that they made friends they didn’t think they would make at school, that they made connections they never thought they’d make. Others said that the career exploration section and time management units helped them start on the right path in college.

“The transition to college life was easier with ROAR,” one student shared.

Shelden says that during Ty’s presentation, they shared that finals were coming up, but they realized they could study and manage their final week of school and not be too stressed.

“It’s ok to not be perfect at ISU,” Shelden says. “That’s something this class helps students understand.”


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