Discovering the Benefits of a First Year Experience Program for Under-represented Students: A Preliminary Assessment of Lakehead University’s Gateway Program
Prepared by Sarah Browne and Heather Doyle, Lakehead University
Research indicates that non-traditional students – including first generation students, students with disabilities, visible minorities, and mature students – are becoming the majority on many campuses. Lakehead University introduced the Gateway Program in 2007 to provide intentional and intrusive programming for underprepared students in order to assist them in making a successful transition to university, with the overall goal of increasing retention and graduation rates for an “at-risk” population.
The researchers conducted a qualitative, exploratory analysis to assess the effectiveness of the Gateway program in helping non-traditional students – those who do not meet the traditional entrance requirements of the university but exhibit academic potential – succeed in university. Data were collected through semi-structured interviews with students who had participated in the program in the 2007/08 and 2008/09 academic years.
Results from the interviews indicated that:
- Most students found the Gateway program helped them to develop the academic skills needed to be successful in university and to integrate into university life.
- More specifically, it assisted students in developing time management skills, critical thinking skills, and study and writing skills, as well as in encouraging student-faculty interaction.
A follow-up study, to be published in 2014, will explore the long-term impacts of the Gateway program on retention and graduation rates by comparing a sample of Gateway students to a sample of nonGateway students.
About the Authors
Sarah Browne is a Senior Research Analyst in Lakehead University’s Office of Institutional Analysis and Government Relations. Sarah is responsible for planning and managing Lakehead University’s institutional survey research, including the analysis of student satisfaction and engagement data in order to identify interventions necessary to effect change. Prior to starting her career in the Postsecondary Education sector in 2007, Sarah worked as a research analyst with the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources. Sarah has a BSc (Honours) in Geography from Lakehead University and a Master’s in Natural Resource Management from Simon Fraser University.
Heather Doyle is the Manager of Academic Advising at Lakehead University, where she has worked for the past four years. She holds a Masters degree in Counselling Psychology from Memorial University. As part of her responsibilities as Manager of Academic Advising, Heather worked on creating and implementing the Gateway program; a support program for under-prepared and under-represented students to help assist with their transition to University.