By Reagan Foster
Posted on: April 2, 2019
Each spring semester, a special section of University 101 is offered to students who struggled academically during their first semester at USC. Students who took University 101 in the fall and received a D or lower in the course are invited to take an Academic Recovery section for grade forgiveness; students who did not take University 101, but who were placed on academic probation after their first semester, are also invited to enroll. The class is not required for either student group, but students who elect to sign up do so because they believe it will help them be successful at USC. Many of the students who choose to take the Academic Recovery section had difficulty managing their time and finding a balance between their coursework and extracurricular activities while being away from home for the first time, but others struggled with their mental health or extended illness and were unable to devote the time needed to excel their first semester.
The Academic Recovery section has the same learning outcomes as any other University
101 class, but is designed to meet the special needs of the students enrolled, focusing
on content that will help students get back on the right path academically. The class
covers some of the same broad topics as the fall University 101 sections, but puts
a greater emphasis on time management, study skills, and goal-setting. The class also
focuses on helping students develop a positive identity, an important objective because
many of these students experience shame and self-doubt after not doing as well as
they thought they would during their first semester.
“It can be incredibly deflating to receive poor grades or a notification that you’ve been placed on academic probation over the winter break. This class exists to remind these students that they are capable of accomplishing their personal, academic, and professional goals.”
- Mike Dial, University 101 Academic Recovery Instructor
University 101 instructor Mike Dial has taught the Academic Recovery section three of the past four springs. He is joined each semester by a peer leader who models what it looks like to be a successful student and who is both caring and capable of having difficult and honest conversations about the students’ prior choices and experiences. Mike teaches his class with honesty and candor, acknowledging from the first day that being on academic probation or retaking a course is not ideal. He stresses, however, that the students are not alone, that their circumstances are nothing to be ashamed of, and that his class will give them the tools they need to be successful going forward. “Students arrive at the University of South Carolina anticipating success. It can be incredibly deflating to receive poor grades or a notification that you’ve been placed on academic probation over the winter break. This class exists to remind these students that they are capable of accomplishing their personal, academic, and professional goals. I hope that students leave with a sense of purpose and direction and that they know someone at the university cares about their success.”
The impact of the Academic Recovery section is significant. In spring 2018, eighteen
students completed the class, fifteen of whom began the semester on academic probation.
At the end of the semester, ten of those fifteen were no longer on probation and another
four earned semester GPAs that allowed them to stay on campus for another semester.
In addition, all of the students who had previously taken University 101 completed
their second attempt with a better grade and were eligible to take advantage of the
university’s grade forgiveness policy.
“University 101 helped me understand my personal ways of studying, time management, and the impact of hard work and dedication. Because of U101, I am now excelling in my classes and have my priorities straight.”
-Chandler, Former University 101 Academic Recovery Student
Students’ satisfaction with the class also shows its value. Chris, a student in Mike’s spring 2018 Academic Recovery section, is grateful that he took the course, reporting that it gave him organizational and time management skills that have become imperative to his current success. “My experience with U101 was absolutely incredible. It helped me face my shortcomings as a student and gave me the tools to improve and grow.” His classmate, Kelly, found the class to be more enjoyable and welcoming than she expected. As a result, she became comfortable asking questions and talking in class. “I learned many study skills and organizational habits while being in U101 which now help me in my current classes…It was so much fun meeting new people and learning new ways to better myself during my time in college.”
Chandler, another student in Mike’s spring 2018 class, felt much more connected to the university after taking the course. He found the most beneficial aspects of the class to be the opportunities to step out of his comfort zone, find out what worked best for him, create community with others, and learn to make the most out of college. “University 101 helped me understand my personal ways of studying, time management, and the impact of hard work and dedication. Because of U101, I am now excelling in my classes and have my priorities straight.”
Mike is proud of, but not surprised by, his students’ accomplishments. “All of these students have what it takes to be successful here at Carolina. If they didn’t, the university would not have admitted them. They may have room to develop better time management skills or improve their self-efficacy. For many though, they just need a ‘helper’ at the university, someone who believes in them and that they know they can go to with questions and to seek help. I like to think this class can provide that.”