DSU offers help to new students using Trailblazer Connections courses

Photo courtesy of Erin Ortiz.

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Dixie State University is offering a new class aimed toward helping new students transition into higher education.

In an effort to ease the transition into the Dixie life, DSU started offering a new course this fall. The class is called Trailblazer Connections, and it is essentially a first-year class meant to help students understand why they are attending college, the many ways to gain the most out of their experience, and, above all, how to be successful.

“I was super excited to start college my freshman year, but was also nervous because I wasn’t sure about a lot of things,” said Ella Barlow, a junior biology major from Eagle Mountain. “I had been told that college was super different than high school and I really wanted to succeed. The First Year Experience class helped so much more than I thought it would, so to see that Dixie is continuing and improving those class is exciting for new students.”

This class has replaced the older First Year Experience classes that DSU offered. While the different areas of study here may still have their own course-specific FYE class, these Trailblazer Connection classes are a little different said Erin Ortiz, Director of General Education and First Year Experience.

“These classes are meant to be inclusive of everyone,” Ortiz said. “We have a really large percentage of students who come in without declaring a major, and these Trailblazer Connection classes are meant to include every potential major.”

Ortiz said these classes are aimed at showing students what resources they have available, explaining how they can get involved, and helping students answer questions. Many students come into college without a definite reason or course of study, Ortiz said, and said she feels if students are able to understand why they want to pursue higher educated, they will do better because they have a sense of direction.

“Having a purpose leads to intentional learning, which is exactly what we as a university want,” Ortiz said. 

DSU offers two types of formats for the Trailblazer Connections classes. The pre-semester class is a three-day class held before the semester starts, that then meets again four times throughout the semester. There is also the regular semester class that is held twice a week, every week, throughout the semester. This regular semester course is more similar to the previous FYE classes that were held.

Joy McMurrin, assistant professor of English, teaches both classes and said the pre-semester class has a different feel to it in that these students get exposed to and gain a feel for college prior to actual classes starting. Although these classes have the same content and coursework, the way the course is structured can make a big difference.

McMurrin said offering both these classes helps students because everyone learns differently, so offering more than one type of first-year classes helps to include everyone and fits to every student’s need.

“Trailblazer Connections expose our students to the campus resources available and academic strategies to enhance their chances for success early,” McMurrin said.

Ultimately, these classes are meant to help incoming students feel more comfortable and confident during their transition into DSU. However, for students and faculty alike, it’s more than just that.

“They are fantastic students. They have reminded me of the excitement that I have for higher education,” McMurrin said. She hopes everyone has a chance to take a class that inspires them with that same enthusiasm.