West Virginia University

Featured Faculty & Students

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The first year of college shapes a student’s entire higher education experience. Below, WVU faculty members and students comment on the importance of the first year, reflect on aspects of WVU’s current first-year practices, and offer advice for new students.



Dr. Jane CaldwellJane Caldwell

Dr. Caldwell coordinates the non-majors lab/lecture program in General Biology, which serves 1,200-1,500 students (mostly freshmen) each semester.

Why the first year of college is so important:
This is the year which determines students' expectations of college courses and of their own performance/abilities. This is also the year in which many of them learn to work at the college level. Unfortunately, for many, this is the year when they decide if they will stay in college.

What she does and why she’s proud of it: I think I know how to relate to students and to communicate with them—and over time I think I've come to understand what students really need to succeed, and what they need to learn.

At its best, I think teaching is like a good dance between you and the students—sometimes lively and funny, sometimes leaves you a bit breathless—but always requires an awareness of your partner lest you stomp on their toes or drop them and leave them behind!


Dr. Laura PyzdrowskiLaura Pyzdrowski

Dr. Pyzdrowski is an associate professor in the Institute for Math Learning in the Mathematics Department and also serves as the Pre-Collegiate Mathematics Coordinator. Her main contact with first-year students is as an instructor of Math 126 (College Algebra).

Best part of being a teacher:
The best part is knowing that you are helping others reach their goals.

Advice for future students: Be a reflective individual and get help if it is needed. The first year of college is an opportunity to "define" yourself. This definition requires reflection about, and possible revisions in your disposition and actions. A realistic assessment of one's knowledge and ability is important, as is perseverance and confidence.

How the University can improve the first-year experience: Perhaps the University can do some outreach to guidance counselors. We need to work collaboratively so that we can communicate about the challenges our students face during the transition and find ways to make it more likely that students succeed.


Lauren Black Lauren Black

Freshman Lauren Black of Shippensburg, Pa., lives in Lincoln Hall. She is majoring in geology and is a member of the "The Pride of West Virginia" Mountaineer Marching Band and the Mountaineer Maniacs.

Her biggest challenge: Making sure to study every night and don't procrastinate, but I am doing better.

Impressions of Lincoln Hall: It's really nice. I like it that it's new and all the amenities, like the laundry room and the movie theater. There are also lots of things to do here. You really can't get bored living here.

Her experience with Adventure WV: It was a blast! I don't think I could have made it though the first semester as easily if it wasn't for my Adventure friends and all I learned. I had so much fun white-water rafting, rock climbing, and backpacking. I tested myself, and I became so much stronger because of that. It was an amazing experience that I would recommend to every incoming freshman.


Jess Boyle Jess Boyle

Sophomore Jess Boyle, from Stanardsville, Va., is a soon-to-be triple major in biology and the forensic biology and forensic examiner tracks of the forensic and investigative science major.

Her first weekend on campus: I met representatives from Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity during Honors Retreat and pledged my first semester. I’m so glad I did! I’ve met so many absolutely wonderful people and a lot of study buddies. It also gives me a place to hang out between classes and a great social network.

Advice for future freshmen: Get involved with something! You will go crazy if you just do school work all the time. Plus, it’s a sure-fire way to make lots of new friends, some of whom can help you out with your studies.


Brandon Thomas

Freshman advertising major Brandon Thomas serves as president of Arnold Hall Council. He is from Charleston, W.Va.

His first day of class: My first day of class was filled with excitement and nervousness. I had so much fun walking around the campus and looking for my class, but I was also nervous that I was going to be late and my teachers were going to be mad. I was wrong, and actually all of my teachers have been great people.

His Resident Assistant: My RA is the nicest and most reasonable person in the world and I would not trade her for anyone else. She’s like a big sister to me. I can go to her when I have a problem or question, and I can also just laugh around and crack jokes with her.

Favorite academic experience so far: The guest speakers that have spoken through the journalism program, such as Mike Luckovich. Another favorite academic moment was getting an A on my first college exam.