March 3, 2024

The first semester of freshman year can be a time of major adjustment for anyone. In the past, the First-year Orientation and Christian Univer- sity Success (FOCUS) program has helped make this transition a little easier for students at Cali- fornia Baptist University.

However, the program is about to undergo substantial changes and restructuring at the start of the fall 2019 semester.

The student leadership selection process is currently underway and plans for the program are beginning to take shape.

Not only is the structure and class layout changing but the name FOCUS will be completely discarded. In fall 2019, FOCUS will become “First Year Experience,” a pre-existing organization also used at other universities.

Meredith Palmer, assistant director of FOCUS, described the motivation behind the change of a program and what prompted the restructuring.

“Not only is there a greater number of students, but it’s more diverse and they have different needs,” Palmer said. “We are trying to update the curriculum to better match the needs of students and the demographic.”

There is no doubt that CBU’s population is rapidly increasing, particularly with each incoming freshman class.

The 2018 freshman class totaled approximately 1,600 students, and Gavin Andrew, Director of FOCUS, estimates the 2019 freshman class will total approximately 2,000 students. While growth is a positive thing for the university, it also makes a new layout for the freshmen orientation program all the more essential.

Some students who were FOCUS leaders have previous- ly expressed both excitement and hesitation about the new program. Mollie Braley, sophomore nursing major, said she has mixed feelings about the restructuring.

“Something I really loved about it was getting to know my students personally,” Braley said.“It seems like the goal now is to reach more students and that’s probably because the university is expanding.”

However, other students see this restructuring and rebranding of the FOCU program as a step in the right direction.

Shannon Herrera, sophomore nursing major, highlighted some of the positive aspects the changes to the program present.

“I think it will mean less class time and more socializing, which emphasizes relationship-building while still teaching university success,” Herrera said. “I enjoyed FOCUS last semester and it’ll be the same idea. I appreciated how I was able to build relationships with lots of my students.”

In addition to receiving a new name, a big change to the first-year program is a seven-week course model instead of 12 weeks, with each pair of student leaders in charge of two groups of students, cutting the number of student leaders in half. The program will also update the material taught to make it more relevant to students at CBU.

Andrew also highlighted the importance of making these changes and how much of an impact they hope to see on the student community.

“We’re excited to dive into the lives of our leaders and see how that pours out into the classroom. Because we have a smaller number (of leaders), we’re hoping we can have better quality and that will increase the classroom experience,” Andrew said. “CBU has a great culture and even as we grow, we’re trying to keep that tighknit, small community feel alive.”

Palmer also emphasized the level of thought that went into this change.

“We’ve put a lot of time and thought and prayer into this new model, so we really feel like it’s up to us to be diligent and do the best we can to serve our students,” Palmer said.

Changes to the FOCUS program have already started as this year’s spring semester students and leaders have been following the seven-week model of class schedules.

This transition allows time to work out any problems that arise and adjust anything that needs to change before the next freshmen class arrives in the fall.

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