Strong Start Initiative

How can we ensure that students begin their GVSU career with a strong start? This initiative focuses faculty attention on best practices for engaging students in first-year and second-year undergraduate courses. If you are interested in learning more about the initiative or would like to strengthen your courses to best engage incoming students, do not hesitate to contact us. Direct inquiries to David Eick, Pew FTLC Faculty Fellow.

Fall 2023 Strong Start Institute

Strong Start Teaching Institute

August 16th and 17th

210 DeVos Center for Inter-professional Health (DCIH)
Health Campus 

How can we ensure that students begin their GV career with a strong start? The strong start Teaching institute focuses faculty attention on best practices for engaging students in first year undergraduate courses. Together, we will explore resources and examples around four themes:

  • Clarity of academic expectations.
  • Fostering a sense if belonging (at GV and in our classrooms)
  • Familiarity with available student resources.
  • Active learning strategies that promote student engagement, motivation, and achievement.

Whether you are teaching a course for the first time or are looking to strengthen a course to beat engage students, we invite you to participate. The in-person and asynchronous components of this Institute will apply to a range of instructor experience levels and disciplines. The Pew FTLC is partnering with colleagues from Student Affairs and eLearning to provide a robust, hands-on learning experience with content directly applicable to your upcoming courses. The Institute is a renewal of the Strong Start Initiative launched originally in 2015 and has been shaped by the Academic Affairs Rapid Response Team, whose May 2023 report provided data analysis and recommendations for first-year student success. 

Register for the Strong Start Teaching Institute TODAY!

What is involved?

This two-day institute begins with a modest amount of pre-work, including an interactive learning module and several short readings (~2hr commitment). The in-seat time will be spent in large-group discussions and small-group exercises, modeling learning activities to apply to your classrooms. Following the August session, participants will have the opportunity for a follow-up individual consultation to review syllabi, course materials, and/or Blackboard sites. 

Participants are eligible for a $500 stipend upon completion of the August 16-17 program and another $500 for completion of the post-Institute course materials review consultation. Participants will also earn a digital badge. 

Who can participate?

The Institute is intended primarily for instructors teaching courses with high first-year student enrollment. Preference will be given to non-tenure-track instructors: affiliates, visitors, adjuncts, and those new or relatively new to university teaching. The Institute is limited to 40 participants. 

How do I apply?

Submit a brief application that asks you to identify a particular course (or courses) that you will be teaching in Fall 2023 or Winter 2024 that enrolls a high number of first-year students. You will also be asked to identify a challenge or opportunity with this course that you are interested in exploring more through the Institute. Applications will be accepted up until Friday, August 11

REGISTER for the Strong Start Teaching Institute today!


Are there additional opportunities to learn?

Yes! The Strong Start Institute will be offered again on January 5 & 6, 2024. During the 2023-24 academic year, the Pew FTLC will offer semester-long Strong Start Initiative faculty learning communities as well as monthly drop-in lunch conversations on topics related to first-year (and beyond) student success. 

What if I have questions?

Please do note hesitate to contact Christine Rener, Pew FTLC Director ([email protected]; 616-331-3499) 


GVSU Resources

  • Tips for Teaching First Year Students at GVSU - a document prepared as part of the Strong Start Initiative
  • My Laker Success - a website that was developed as part of the Student Success Network that helps students navigate their first year in college – encourage your students to bookmark this page

General Resources

Page last modified July 24, 2023