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NIU to host yearly Midwest ‘drive-in’ congress on strengthening first-year student experience

July 18, 2012
Vasti Torres

Vasti Torres

Vasti Torres will provide the keynote address for “Strengthening the Student Experience,” the annual Midwest Drive-In conference for faculty, academic administrators, student affairs professionals and graduate students who work with first-year students.

The conference is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 28, at NIU’s Holmes Student Center.

Co-sponsors are the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, City Colleges of Chicago, College of Lake County, Elgin Community College, Northeastern Illinois University, Rock Valley College, Saint Xavier University, Bedford/St. Martin, Hayden McNeil Publishers and NIU.

In addition to many educational sessions, this year’s conference will feature extended in-depth featured sessions. These sessions will cover topics such as best practices for establishing and enhancing first-year seminars, developing a first-year experience program for community colleges, and models for new student orientation.

Torres is a professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and director of the Center for Postsecondary Research, School of Education at Indiana University.

She received her M.Ed. in Student Personnel in Higher Education and her Ph.D. in Student Affairs Administration from the University of Georgia. Her research interests include Latino college students, Latino ethnic identity, college student development, student affairs administration, and mixed method research.

She teaches classes in student affairs administration, student development theory, diversity and research in higher education.

Torres has been honored as a Diamond Honoree and Emerging Scholar by the American College Personnel Association, Outstanding Faculty by the NASPA Latino/a Knowledge Community, and Program Associate for the National Center for Policy in Higher Education.

Kevin Clarke

Kevin Clarke

An extended session presenter is Kevin Clarke, University 101 program coordinator for Faculty Development and Assessment, the National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition at the University of South Carolina.

At the University of South Carolina, Clarke develops and facilitates faculty training, workshops, and support resources for instructors, peer leaders, and graduate leaders of the first-year course, UNIV 101. He teaches first-year seminar sessions and develops lesson plans, assignments and tools to further enhance the University 101 curriculum.

He also manages and develops assessment initiatives to further drive the improvement of University 101 Programs’ instructor development program and instructor resources.

Cost for the event, which includes a continental breakfast and lunch buffet, is $80 if paid by Sept. 7 and $95 after that date. Graduate student registration is $60. Registration is available online.

More information about the conference and online registration is available at or by contacting Kelly Melvin, conference chair, or Denise Rode, conference committee member. Both Melvin and Rode are members of the staff at NIU Orientation & First-Year Experience.