"Working to help students achieve their college goals through high quality instruction and small communities."
Synergy is a first-year learning community similar to Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs), the Honors Program, and Engineering Power Groups. The Synergy Program serves students who are admitted with conditions to UW based on high school GPA, ACT scores, and prerequisite course fulfillment. The program includes 144-150 students each year and features four courses in the first year: ENGL 1010, POLS 1000, UWYO 1450 (a reading and research-focused course), and COJO 1010.
Synergy Instructors from multiple disciplines plan during the summer for thematic and text-based course connections in an effort to increase students' ability to draw meaningful connections among ideas and disciplines.
According to University statistics, conditionally admitted students are at increased risk for failure or departure in their first year of college. At-risk students at UW follow national trends in comprising higher numbers of males, minorities, and first-generation college students than regularly admitted students. Some conditionally-admitted students enter college underprepared for academic writing and reading, areas the program addresses through lower student-teacher ratios, increased conferencing, and supplemental instruction. While assumptions about at-risk students' fitness for college work spark debate across the nation, faculty in the Synergy program consistently report higher levels of critical thinking, sensitivity to marginalized perspectives, and intellectual risk-taking among Synergy students. Rather than planning for remediation (an approach that undermines many students' high intelligence and abilities), the program's courses strive to engage students in challenging coursework while addressing key habits including time management and goal-setting skills.
Since the program's inception, students participating in Synergy have earned on average 0.35 higher GPAs and 20% lower academic probation rates than students admitted with conditions during the four years before the program began. In addition, program features such as peer mentors, interdisciplinary approaches to courses, and pre-semester transition programming have bolstered similar features in other learning communities on campus. The program has received two major national awards for undergraduate teaching and curriculum design.