LaGuardia Community College Administrator Receives National Award for Outstanding Freshman Program

Long Island City, NY—A LaGuardia Community College administrator was recently awarded by a national organization for the key role he played in the development of the college’s award-winning freshman program.

Dr. Paul Arcario, dean for Academic Affairs, was named an Outstanding First-Year Student Advocate by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. He was one of 10 award recipients selected among a group of 116 educators.

“As the principal architect of the college’s first-year programs, Dr. Arcario is most deserving of this recognition,” said President Gail O. Mellow. “His leadership has resulted in significant gains in learning outcomes for our first-year students, while at the same time having an important impact on the culture of our college.”

Guided by Dr. Arcario’s vision and leadership, LaGuardia has developed a comprehensive, multifaceted “First-Year Academy” program that integrates a host of academic and support activities. There are first-year learning communities that link developmental courses with credit-bearing introductory courses; pre-college intensive courses; an opening sessions for new students that helps create common, shared experiences; a common reading for freshmen; a new career development course in Cooperative Education; co-curricular activities linked closely to students’ majors, and technology-based instruction.

Dr. Arcario has been successful in obtaining grant funding to support many of these programs, including two major U.S. Department of Education Title V grants for Hispanic Serving Institutions totaling over $5 million and over $1 million in two grants from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE).

“LaGuardia’s first-year activities,” said Dr. Arcario, “have been designed to foster academic success as well as create a sense of community and connectedness to the college among a highly diverse group of students, many with developmental or English-as-a-Second-Language needs.”

And data show that the activities are an important factor in improved student retention. Latest figures indicate that the college has been able to achieve first-year persistence rates averaging 65 percent over the past nine years, exceeding the national average for first-year persistence at public two-year colleges.

LaGuardia’s learning communities, which link developmental courses such as ESL with credit-bearing introductory courses in business, computers, and sociology, have been particularly successful. “What the success of such learning communities shows,” said Dr. Arcario, “is that the most effective basic skills instruction occurs when such instruction is closely coordinated with regular college coursework.”

Pre-freshman intensive courses in the college’s “First Year Institute” summer program help to accelerate first-year students through the basic skills course sequences. A required new student seminar is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in college.

Another activity is opening sessions for new students that helps create shared academic experiences that set an academic tone and expectations for students, as well as establish a greater sense of community and connectedness to the institution. Integrated into opening sessions is a common reading for freshmen, also designed to create a shared intellectual experience for first-year students.

Technology has also been used to enhance the first-year programs. First year students begin the process of creating their electronic portfolios, which are a selection of student’s works—presentations, projects, and performances—that are posted on the Internet. Through this technology, students can improve and assess their work while professors, counselors, and administrators are able to follow the student’s progress.

The student advocate award is the latest recognition of LaGuardia’s first-year program. In 2002, the Policy Center on the First Year of College, a national research center, named LaGuardia one of 13 “Institutions of Excellence in the First College Year.” Last year, the Center featured LaGuardia, along with the other honorees, in its book Achieving and Sustaining Institutional Excellence for the First Year of College. In January of this year, the College received the Bellwether Award for innovative instructional programs for its First Year Academy and ePortfolio programs.

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LaGuardia Community College, part of the City University of New York, is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges. Its vibrant and culturally diverse student body, representing 159 countries and speaking 110 languages, has established LaGuardia as “The World’s Community College.” The college provides a broad array of academic, workforce development, and continuing education programs to over 41,000 students. LaGuardia is located in the heart of western Queens. To learn about our exciting college, please go to

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