First Year Success Program Brings Student Help Closer at TAMIU

With a stream of test dates to input on their palm pilots, challenging homework to finish and a budding social life to juggle, the daily life of a first time University student can become hectic and confusing.

But student help and support is available at Texas A&M International University through a program advising students on everything, from how to crack that tricky calculus question to what careers best suit their interests.

The First Year Success Program is the one-stop shop where students can receive information on tutoring services, academic advising, degree planning, counseling, assistance with registration, as well as class scheduling and referrals while making their transition into University life.

"We assist students in gaining independence and developing problem solving skills. Because many first time students coming from high school are used to a structured environment where they are told what to do, sometimes they feel so overwhelmed when they attend University," said Rachel López, First Year Success Program coordinator, "A program like this offers them alternatives, options, and a place for them to go for answers."

The program, which started with the support of a U.S. Department of Education Title V development grant, is housed in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, rooms 334 and 217.

"This program was formed to target retention and to get the students to access as many student support services as they can," López said, "So far, we have served over 3,400 students."

She said that the First Year Success Program offers students a place to go for direction, whether a student needs clarification on their student status, information about dropping a class or if they need to find a job on campus.

"We try to have as much information as possible at our fingertips. We have a liaison with every campus department that works with students and we meet monthly with those liaisons to keep abreast of the latest developments," said López.

One component of the First Year Success Program is referral to tutoring services.

"The Program for Academic Support and Enrichment has hired more tutors and students can receive increased tutoring and supplemental instruction services for mathematics, sciences and social sciences as well as developmental courses and general university courses designed to help students achieve college success," López said.

At the same time, the Writing Center provides a professional tutoring staff to assist students in developing and improving their writing skills through individual and group tutoring. The Center also maintains an interactive website and writer's telephone help line to serve students off campus.

Another component includes academic advisement services.

"The academic advisors are juniors, seniors or graduate students who serve as our students' peers. The advisors will assist students in making decisions concerning academic majors and courses of study. They are to serve as unbiased information providers and each student coming into the University will have a connection with an advisor throughout their first year," she said.

She said first-time freshmen and transfer students can also receive advisement in preparation for registration.

"They can receive a crash course on how to navigate through LASSO to check existing holds, select a class schedule and complete the registration process in one simple step," López said.

Dr. Terence Hannigan, director of Student Counseling Services, manages the third part of Title V, expanded student counseling services.

Currently, the Student Counseling Services has two, full-time counselors and a Disability Services for Students coordinator.

"In addition to our regular office hours, students can now see a counselor on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings until 8 p.m.," Dr. Hannigan said.

He explained that Student Counseling Services uses Title V monies to provide information, in the form of brochures and information tables, to students about important issues.

"We've presented many topics such as dealing with depression, domestic violence, test anxiety, study skills, developing healthy relationships and others," said Hannigan.

López said she considers the First Year Program crucial for student success.

"I think it is something that is very necessary judging of the feedback that we are getting from our students who say, 'Hey thanks.' From reminding them about the class drop date to telling them about financial aid and grade point average requirements, it's all information, students need to know."

For further information, please contact López at 326-2785, e-mail or visit offices located in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 316.

Registration for the Spring 2004 semester reopens at 8 a.m. Monday, Jan. 5. Registration may be accomplished throughout these days and prior to General Registration on Friday, Jan. 16. Classes begin Tuesday, Jan. 20. Registration information is available by calling the Office of the Registrar at 326.2250.

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