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National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition

International Advisory Board

As the international presence and work of the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition has changed and grown in the past decade, we are proud to introduce the International Advisory Board.

Similar to the National Advisory Board, this board of global scholars serves in a consultative role for the Center, giving advice and contributing suggestions for research topics, publications, marketing and funding strategies, and conference speakers, as well as authoring articles for Center publications and evaluating award nominees and grant proposals. These leaders and experts in higher education represent a variety of institutional types and resource centers from around the world. The International Advisory Board members provide unique perspectives and expertise. The Center hopes to benefit from this and provide resources that promote student success, learning, and development on a global level.

Abdulaziz Alfehaid

Abdulaziz Alfehaid

Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University
Saudi Arabia

Abdulaziz Alfehaid, Ph.D., is a professor of applied linguistics and TESOL in the Department of English Language at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University-IAU (formerly the University of Dammam) in Saudi Arabia. He has taught both undergraduate and postgraduate modules at IAU and other universities. Dr. Alfehaid is also the Dean of Preparatory Year & Supporting Studies at IAU, as well as the chairman of the department of English language. As dean, he has worked to mobilize faculty to support student achievement through professional development and student success initiatives, including revision of the preparatory year curriculum, a quality assurance system, pedagogical research and assessment, new learning support systems, and pedagogical innovation. Alfehaid is also the founder and the Secretary-General of the National Committee of Deans of Preparatory Year Programs in Saudi Universities sponsored by the Ministry of Education.

Previously, Alfehaid was the vice-dean of admission and registration at IAU and held responsibilities related to enrollment and student records. In 2015, he founded and chaired the first National Conference for Prep Year in Saudi Universities, a welcoming venue for researchers and other specialized scholars to work on improving the prep year experience in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. He has presented at a wide variety of educational conferences and symposiums (national, regional, and international) and is often invited to provide consultancy support on issues relating to first-year student linguistic challenges, academic achievement, and retention, the first-year curriculum, and transitional aspects. He is also a member of many national and international committees.

Alfehaid’s research focuses mainly on preparatory first-year student retention, English language education, English for academic purposes, developing and evaluating preparatory year curriculum and programs and student transitions.

Dr. Aziz earned his master’s and doctorate in applied linguistics and TESOL from the School of Education at the University of Leicester, England. 

Hala Al-Najjar

Hala Al-Najjar

American University of Kuwait

Hala Al-Najjar, M.Ed., is the coordinator for the First Year Experience program at the American University of Kuwait (AUK). During her time as coordinator, Ms. Al-Najjar has initiated and administered significant program initiatives that developed a curriculum fostering the social and academic foundations needed for success at an American liberal arts university. Through research, Ms. Al-Najjar tailored a first-year program unique to the needs of the Kuwaiti student transitioning into an American higher learning environment. 

Ms. Al-Najjar consults for the Kuwait Youth Public Authority and Ministry of Higher Education. She proposed, developed, and planned a nation-wide initiative supporting public school, Kuwaiti students applying to universities abroad. As a result, the Academic Advising Center Qadisiya was established in 2021. Along with assisting students to navigate the application process, the program also promotes the personal, social, and academic qualities needed for students to be competitive at the international level. Through school visits, the program encourages public high school students and staff to value the importance of personal growth, social involvement, and community service along with academic excellence needed to succeed as a 21st Century college-bound learner. 

Hala Al-Najjar developed and continues to lead cultural sensitivity workshops for expatriate educators teaching in Kuwait. She has been recognized for both her civic and professional accomplishments. Two awards that she is most proud of are those she received from her students at AUK: Most Supportive Faculty and Carrier of the AUK Spirit Faculty Award. A member of several local clubs and organizations, Al-Najjar is active in promoting social justice in the community. She has started her own non-governmental organization (NGO) and is a founding member of the Soroptimist International Group; a global volunteer organization that provides women and girls with access to the education and training needed to achieve success.

Ms. Al-Najjar is currently researching the educational, cultural, and social influences that are distinctive to the Kuwaiti student while studying at higher learning institutes abroad. Her research is bringing awareness to the unique issues Kuwaiti students face while living and studying overseas.

Christine Curtis

Christine Curtis

University of the Bahamas

Christine Curtis, Ed.D, previously served as the Coordinator of First Year Experience since 2016 – 2022 at the University of The Bahamas (UB), a premier institution with two major locations, one on the island of Grand Bahama and the other in New Providence.

Previously, Dr. Curtis served in various capacities at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology as a senior counselor, program coordinator, behavioral intervention specialist, and quality assurance coordinator. Her passion and enthusiasm for at-risk student’s population has led her to serve as an advisor for the Ministry of Education's Student ReFocus Support Program since 2016, Board Member for Mount Pleasant Green Baptist Church, and Mentors to students nationally and internationally.

Currently, Dr. Curtis serves as Director of the University Centre for Counseling and Career Services (UCC&CS) where she oversees the operation of the Department inclusive of First Year Seminar, while working on a research study to determine, “The Impact of Participation on First Year Students’ Attitudes and Behaviors Toward Learning at University of The Bahamas.”

Dr. Curtis earned her bachelor’s and master’s in counseling and administration. She completed her doctorate in vocational, technical, and career education.

Robert Kenedy

Robert Kenedy

York University

Robert Kenedy, PhD, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at York University, Canada, where he has won four teaching awards, an award for his service to students, and the Senate of Canada Sesquicentennial Medal for service to the nation.

Currently, Dr. Kenedy’s research interests are in Jewish Diaspora; Immigration and Citizenship; Ethnic Identity; Social and Political Movements; and Qualitative Methodologies. Dr, Kenedy’s scholarly work examines cocurricular and curricular peer education, mentorship, and leadership, focusing on academic and social contributions to the post-secondary transition. Dr. Kenedy's research highlights integrating peer educators and leaders into courses and studying their impact on student learning. He specifically examines best practices for incorporating peer educators inside and outside the classroom as well as evaluating the pedagogical benefits for students in terms of critical thinking, writing, and other academic skills. For his pedagogical research, he has written articles on peer education, integrating critical thinking skills into courses, and the importance of supporting student learning through teaching partnerships. Dr. Kenedy has also been the guest editor of a special themed issue on peer education in the Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition.

Dr. Kenedy completed his doctorate at York University.

Karen Nelson

Karen Nelson

University of Southern Queensland

Karen Nelson, PhD, PFHEA is a professor of higher education and was appointed Provost at the University of Southern Queensland (UniSQ) in January 2022, after serving as the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) from 2019.

As Provost at the University of Southern Queensland, Professor Karen Nelson leads the Academic Division, which includes the Academic Affairs, Students, Academic Transformation, Learning and Teaching Futures, and Strategic Projects and Academic Systems Portfolios, the USQ Pathways College, Library Services and Residential Students Services. In this role she is responsible for academic strategy, the quality of education and academic services, achieving excellence in student outcomes and enhancing USQ’s reputation as a leading Australian university.

Prior to this, Karen was the inaugural Pro Vice-Chancellor (Students) at the University of the Sunshine Coast (USC). Before joining USC, Karen was at Queensland University of Technology as Director of Student Success and Retention, and Director of First Year Experience, positions which followed a series of traditional faculty-based academic roles.  

A recognized authority in the first-year experience, and student engagement and retention, Professor Nelson’s research into the complex nature of the student experience has been instrumental in uncovering the factors influencing attrition and has advanced policy and practice nationally and internationally. Her contributions to higher education have been recognized by three national awards for university teaching and in 2016 she was made Principal Fellow of the UK based Higher Education Academy. In 2020, she was made Professor Emeritus of the University of the Sunshine Coast in recognition of her contributions.

Widely engaged in the higher education sector, Professor Nelson has recently been appointed to the Panel for Cycle 6 Auditors of the Academic Quality Agency for New Zealand Universities, has served as the chair of the Australian Regional Universities Network DVC/PVC Learning and Teaching Group and Student Success Cluster (2014-2019), and is currently an elected member of the Universities Australia Deputy Vice-Chancellors Academic Executive group.

Karen has also served the sector as the founding editor, and editor in chief of Student Success: an open access journal exploring the experiences of students in tertiary education; and has been a member of the organising committee, Chair or Co-chair of the annual STARS Conference and its predecessors for more than 15 years.

Diane Nutt

Diane Nutt

European First-Year Experience Network (EFYE)

Diane Nutt, Ph.D. PFHEA is an independent consultant and researcher in higher education in the United Kingdom. She is now partially retired, but is still committed to exploring strategies to enhance the student experience, from the first year throughout the university journey. Dr. Nutt began the European First-Year Experience (EFYE) Network and was chair of the EFYE Conference Organizing Committee until 2021. She has presented at a wide variety of conferences and events and is often invited to speak or provide consultancy support on issues relating to retention, the first-year experience, and transitions. More recently her work has focused on how we can best develop the staff who teach and support students in transition.

Previously, Nutt worked at Teesside University, where she was the acting assistant director of the Learning and Teaching Department and head of the student retention team. She has been a lecturer in sociology and a staff developer and was awarded a University Teaching Fellowship at Teesside in 2006. During her tenure there, she initiated a project on study skills provision and became involved in work on the first-year experience. In 2003, she moved from sociology to a central learning and teaching leadership role, where she set up a retention team and completed a major European Social Fund (ESF) research project on the retention of nontraditional students (published in 2005). This was followed by a number of other projects, including setting up an institutional retention strategy, leading a further £250,000 ESF dissemination project, and representing Teesside as part of a major national project funded by the Higher Education Funding Council, England (HEFCE) on postgraduate student experiences involving 11 institutions. Nutt was awarded a Principal Fellowship of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA) in 2015. At Teesside, she was actively involved in a variety of committees and working groups, including chair of the Rough Guide editorial board, as well as being an author of two Rough Guides. In her role, Nutt worked closely with schools, program teams, and faculty in developing curricula.

Nutt has published a number of articles and chapters in her original discipline as well as on retention and student experience. She is co-author of the NRC monograph (with Denis Calderon) International Perspectives on the First Year Experience in Higher Education. Her most recent publications are (both with Emily McIntosh): an edited collection, (published by Routledge 2022) The Impact of the Integrated Practitioner in Higher Education: Studies in Third Space Professionalism, and an article, ‘The Impact of the Integrated Practitioner: Perspectives on Integrated Practice to Enhance Student Success’, in Student Success Journal, volume 13, no 2 (2022) pp1-9. 

Dr. Nutt earned her bachelor’s in independent studies at Lancaster University in England. She completed her doctorate in sociology, also from Lancaster. Her thesis was on childless women's social networks.

Annsilla Nyar

Annsilla Nyar

South African National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition (SANRC)

Dr Annsilla Nyar is Director of the South African National Resource Centre for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition (SANRC). She is a seasoned higher education professional, with over two decades of high-level senior management experience in higher education. Recent senior management positions include: (a) Senior Researcher at the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO), a partnership between the Gauteng Provincial Government, the University of Johannesburg and the University of Witwatersrand; (b) Research Manager at Higher Education South Africa (HESA), now Universities South Africa (USAF) and (c) currently, the role of Director at the SANRC. Dr Nyar is an active and engaged ambassador for South Africa’s First-Year Experience (FYE), and strives to provide clear academic and strategic leadership for the FYE movement in both national and global contexts. She is, and will always be, committed to the vision of creating a transformational and life-changing experience for university students. 

Dr. Nyar holds a Master’s degree from the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) and a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

Pιnar Özbek

Pιnar Özbek

Koç University

Pιnar Özbek, M.A., Ed.M., is the Coordinator of the Academic and Life Skills (ALIS 100) Program, the experiential first-year program at Koç University in Istanbul, Turkey. In 2017, she launched the FYE network in Turkey, which now has 250 members from 90 institutions. The inaugural FYE symposium in Turkey was organized in 2018 by her team at Koç U. Özbek serves as a consultant and conducts workshops for higher education professionals planning to implement FYE programs at Turkish universities. In 2017, she visited ADA University in Azerbaijan on an Erasmus+ Teaching Exchange Grant where she provided consultation to staff members regarding the implementation of a life skills program for undergraduate students. Since 2019, she served as a founding member of the Wellbeing, Innovation and Social Change in Education Network within the global Wellbeing Project.

Ms. Özbek teaches courses such as Academic and Life Skills, Transition to Professional Life, and Next Generation Leadership and Transformation at the undergraduate level at Koç University. She also offers life skills workshops and coaching to graduate students on work–life balance, public speaking, time management, and intercultural competence. She facilitates workshops for university staff members and visiting staff on multicultural sensitivity. Özbek co-authored the book University and Beyond: Life Skills for Young Adults, a manual for life skills instructors as well as a guide for college students. She is also the co-author of a book chapter, "Transition to Professional Life Through Experiential Learning," in the Palgrave Handbook of Experiential Learning in International Business. Her team received the Outstanding Service Award at Koç University in 2013, and she was a grantee of the Women's International Leadership Award at International House in New York in 2008. Özbek also served as the secretary-general and vice president of the Turkish Psychological Association since 2012.

Ms. Özbek earned her bachelor’s in psychology from Boğaziçi University in Turkey. She completed her M.A. and M.Ed. from Columbia University on Fulbright scholarship.

Marisol Silva-Laya

Marisol Silva Laya

Ibero-American University

Marisol Silva Laya, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Research Institute for Educational Development (INIDE) and Head of the Research and Graduate Studies Office at Universidad Iberoamericana Mexico City. She recently concluded a six-year term as head of the INIDE.

Her research has focused on equity and justice in education, higher education policy, and the first-year experience. She has conducted and collaborated with various studies on first-year experiences in Mexico, where these kind of initiatives are emerging, and has also promoted the implementation of support devices for students. Currently, she is working on a research study to evaluate “The impact of the College Integration Workshop on the the first-year experiences at Universidad Iberoamericana Mexico City in a Post-Pandemic Context”.

Silva Laya is a member of Mexico’s National System of Researchers (SNI), Level 2. She is also a member of the Mexican Council of Educational Research (COMIE) and of the Governing Board of Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM). She has actively participated in constructing educational policy deliberation and collaborated with organizations and public agencies oriented to the advancement of the educational system’s performance, including the Citizen Observatory of Education, the Technical Committee for the Use and Diffusion of Educational Evaluation Results at the National Institute for Educational Evaluation, and the National Association of Universities and Higher Education Institutions’ commission for the development of the initiative for the Law of Higher Education.

Herman Van de Mosselaer

Herman Van de Mosselaer

Artesis Plantijn University College Antwerp

Herman Van de Mosselaer M.A., has more than 40 years of experience in higher education in Flanders, Belgium, which includes 20 years as teacher and coordinator of the first year in a teacher training college. He spent an additional 20 years in other various positions, serving as department head in education, quality care and/or in research in AP University of Applied Sciences and Arts, in Antwerp. He has experience as a chairman, secretary, and member of visitation committees for bachelor's and master's programs in Belgium and the Netherlands. Since his retirement in 2018, Van de Mosselaer remains professionally active on a number of themes, including the promotion of opportunities for children and young people in deprived situations and the first-year experience and students in transition.

Previously, Van de Mosselaer was a member of the Quality Assurance working group of Vlhora, the Council of Flemish University Colleges, and of the steering committee for learning outcomes for higher education at the VLUHR, the Flemish Council of Universities and University Colleges. He coordinated international projects on topics such as access to higher education, retention and student success, generic skills and 21st century skills, and collaboration with the world of work. Since the organization of the annual EFYE conference in Antwerp in 2010, Van de Mosselaer is  a member of the EFYE Conference Organizing Committee.

Supporting and coaching the learning of first-year students has been and remains one of his major interests. In 2005, he started a first research project on this subject. This led to the development of Lemo, a self-assessment feedback and feedforward tool on learning competences and motivation for first-year students. The online tool is used in many higher education institutions in Flanders and the Netherlands, along with adapted versions in high schools., The tool is also part of the mandatory entry test for students in all Flemish teacher training colleges.

Van de Mosselaer earned degrees in psychology and educational sciences at Ghent University. He is influenced by positive psychology with a focus on appreciative inquiry.

Reiko Yamada

Reiko Yamada

Doshisha University

Reiko Yamada, Ph.D., is the director of the Center for Higher Education and Student Research at Doshisha University (DU) in Kyoto, Japan. Dr. Yamada has long been interested in comparative higher education policy in Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. More recently, she conducted the quantitative study for student development and is engaged in comparative student research between Japan, Korea, and the United States. Additionally, Yamada was the first president of the Japan Association of the First-Year Experience.

Previously, Yamada was a professor and former dean of the Faculty of Social Studies in the Department of Education and Culture as well as the director of the Center for Higher Education and Student Research, both at DU. Yamada has also served as Director of the Center for Learning Support and Faculty Development and as Assistant Academic Provost at Doshisha and on the committee of the Central Council for Education in Japan.

Yamada has published extensively on student success and higher education policy, including on topics such as active learning, articulation from high school to college, international comparative education, measuring student learning outcomes, and productivity in higher education. Her most recent English publications include: “Generic Skills of Economics and Educational Science Students-Insights from a German-Japanese Study” (2020); “New Directions of STEM Research and Learning in the World Ranking Movement: A Comparative Perspective” (2018); “Impact of Higher Education Policy on Private Universities in Japan: Emergence of Inequality Issue of Educational Opportunities in Japan: An Analysis of Factors to Determine Opportunities for Higher Education” (2018).

Dr. Yamada earned her bachelor’s from Doshisha University and her master’s in education from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). She completed her doctorate in education, also from UCLA.


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