Published: March 8, 2017

Vice Provost Mary Kraus

Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education Mary Kraus

As we approach mid-semester, I want to share with you some updates regarding a few of the first-year activities that are underway in the Office of Undergraduate Education (UE). As we continue to shape the leaders of tomorrow and positively impact humanity, UE, together with campus partners, is focusing on first-year academic programs, because they build the academic foundation for student success.

This mid-semester summary includes updates of the ARPAC (Academic Review and Planning Advisory Committee) review of Residential Academic Programs (RAPs), first-year seminars and Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs). 

In response to the 2014 ARPAC review of the RAPs, the provost established a task force to evaluate the effectiveness and added value of the RAPs to first-year students. The task force, formed in October 2016, includes representatives from the Boulder Faculty Assembly, Arts and Sciences Council, current RAP directors, Housing & Dining Services, Student Affairs and students.

The task force has been meeting regularly to examine questions including measures to assess RAP programs, the administrative and financial structure for the campus RAP program and collaboration between academic departments and RAPs.

Task force recommendations, to be delivered to the provost and the ARPAC committee by June 1, are meant to improve and strengthen the RAPs, which will continue to provide first-year students an opportunity to learn in a “small college” environment. As always, if you have any questions, concerns, or need additional information, please contact Paul Chinowsky at   

After a faculty-led design effort and a study of peer institutions’ approaches to first-year experiences, I am happy to announce the First-Year Seminars pilot program is off to a great start.

Faculty representing Arts and Sciences, Engineering & Applied Science, CMCI, Education, and Music are offering twenty-three sections, averaging 13 students per seminar this semester. Students in the seminars are currently completing a mid-course survey to provide feedback to faculty and as part of the overall assessment process for the seminars.

Part two of the pilot, to be offered to incoming first-year students in fall 2017, will include 45 sections of up to 19 students each. The program is being promoted through Admitted Student Day, direct communications with incoming students over the summer, advising sessions and Welcome Week activities.

I appreciate greatly the faculty who have worked so hard to make this pilot program a success and look forward to future opportunities to improve the student experience.  

Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs) are being developed as a third academic program available to first-year students. In a fall 2017 pilot, four FIGs, each of 25 students, will be offered to incoming students.  Each FIG, led by tenured faculty, will be anchored by a freshman seminar, and students will be enrolled in one additional common course.

 Two FIGs, to be located in Kittredge Central, will focus on sustainability from a design perspective. The other two will be located in Libby Hall and focus on sustainability from a humanities and arts perspective. 

Concurrently, a cross-campus faculty committee, led by Professor Tom Zeiler, is exploring various options for the organizational and academic structure of future CU Boulder FIGs. This group will submit recommendations by May 1.

First-year academic programs and improving the first-year student experience are key focuses of UE, and we appreciate the feedback, comments and ideas that faculty, staff and students have provided to these important projects. I hope and believe that the development and evaluation of these programs will continue to be collaborative with faculty and the schools and colleges.

UE welcomes your input, and if you have questions or would like a briefing to your unit, email me at or call at 303-492-8477.

Mary Kraus,
Vice Provost and Associate Vice Chancellor for Undergraduate Education