NACOGDOCHES, Texas - Stephen F. Austin State University has been chosen as one of 44 campuses across the nation to take part in a three-year initiative created by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Aimed at redesigning the first-year experience to embolden students' success in undergraduate years and in the 21st century workplace, Re-Imagining the First Year of College will assist SFA in implementing sustainable changes to help increase student retention and graduation rates.

"Stephen F. Austin State University's selection as one of the 44 institutions in the Re-Imagining the First Year of College program is an honor and an exciting opportunity for our campus," said Dr. Mary Nelle Brunson, associate provost.

Additionally, the initiative provides the opportunity for SFA representatives to attend national conferences and participate in educational webinars to learn best-practice goals. RFY offers one-on-one mentoring, idea sharing, and online tools and resources to their network of selected campuses.

"Participation in this AASCU project will provide SFA with an opportunity to collaborate with other institutions across the nation to evaluate current first-year initiatives and identify those practices that are most promising for SFA students," Brunson said. "Through this project, we will redesign the first year of college at SFA to provide transformational experiences that support the academic success of all Lumberjacks."

The RFY initiative is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and USA Funds. It officially began Feb. 2, at the AASCU Academic Affairs Winter Meeting in Austin, Texas, and will run through the 2018 calendar year. During that time, it is the initiative's goal to have developed a comprehensive first-year program that engages the entire campus and can be carried forward.

"RFY seeks to inspire redesigned approaches that work effectively for all members of an increasingly diverse, multicultural, undergraduate student body," according to the AASCU website, "eliminating the achievement disparities that have plagued American higher education for generations. Ultimately, redesigning this critical first year will allow for broader reform of the undergraduate experience in the future."

The initiative is meant for all undergraduates, but focuses particularly on those who have been underserved historically in higher education, including low-income, first generation and students of color, according to the AASCU.

"We are pleased that these AASCU institutions will commit their enormous talent and knowledge to the success of this initiative, which I believe will have a profound effect on undergraduate education in the 21st century," said George Mehaffy, vice president for academic leadership and change at AASCU. "The state colleges and universities we selected for RFY represent a broad swath of the institutional landscape and exhibit strong leadership and other qualities that are conducive to effecting broad-scale and sustainable change. Together, with the engagement of all campus stakeholders - from students to academic leadership - we will strive to transform the first-year student experience and ensure student success."

For more information, visit the AASCU website at