By
Adam Grybowski
12/07/2017

Students in the Class of 2021 are the first to experience Rider University's new fully implemented Engaged Learning Program.

As part of the program, all new students are required to complete at least two high-impact engaged learning experiences to satisfy their graduation requirements. Those experiences — which include among other categories study abroad and cultural exploration, guided research and scholarship, and civic and community engagement — are documented on an Engaged Learning Transcript (ELT).

A companion to the traditional academic transcript, the ELT captures student experiences and the journeys they take as they connect the lessons of the classroom to the real world. After students graduate, Rider sends the ELT along with academic transcripts to prospective employers or graduate or professional school. "Engaged Learning is the heart of a Rider education," says President Gregory G. Dell'Omo, Ph.D. "It is the common, unifying thread that connects every part of living and learning at Rider."

The Class of 2021 — the most diverse ever and one of the largest in recent history — has responded by bringing a lot of new energy and excitement to campus. Since the beginning of the fall semester, administrators have observed a spike in student participation across a variety of events.

Fall traditions like I Love College, R Factor, Cranberry Fest, Scream Screen and Midnight MAACness have attracted in some cases more than 1,000 students each. Participation in intramural sports by first-year students has increased 12%. Crowds have also swelled for community building events that promote diversity, equity and inclusion, such as a Diverse Welcome Reception, Unity Day and Celebration of Lights.

"Starting with record attendance at fall opening events, and following through key campus events in the past couple of months, class participation is at a high," wrote Dr. Leanna Fenneberg, vice president for Student Affairs, and Drew Aromando, interim vice president for Enrollment Management, in a letter to the campus community. This year, 83% of freshmen live in residence halls on campus. Their increased participation and visibility on campus is a cornerstone of the vibrant living and learning community envisioned by President Dell'Omo. "Rider is a place where special things happen,” he says. ““The undergraduate years are such a unique time in an individual’s life, and not just for what a person gains in the classroom. The personal growth students experience is critically important to their development, and becoming involved in the community is what facilitates that experience.”

Rider has long prided itself on being a student-centered institution, and efforts to ensure student success are only increasing. In addition to the Engaged Learning Program, the University is implementing other strategies as outlined in its recently adopted strategic plan, such as a newly created Retention Council that meets monthly to identify and evaluate factors that promote student success. Coinciding with these and other endeavors, the freshman retention rate has increased this year.

"Stronger retention leads to better student outcomes, which, in addition to demonstrating the success of our students, is an important factor for families when considering value for price," wrote Fenneberg and Aromando. "We are at a pivotal stage for Rider’s future, and students are at the heart of that future."