A&M International Receives $2.25 Million Grant

A multimillion dollar grant and the largest awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to any Hispanic-serving institution this year, will revolutionize student education at Texas A&M International University.

A&M International recently received $450,000, the first installment of a five-year Title V development grant, offered to Hispanic-serving institutions to improve academic programs, student services and facilities. Among the 45 institutions selected to receive grants this year, A&M International's award was the highest, at a total of nearly $2.25 million for the five years.

Mary Treviño, associate vice-president for student services and general Title V Coordinator, said the five-year grant will fund a major initiative called "A Retention Management Strategy for First-time Freshmen and First-time Transfers."

Treviño explained that first-time students are at risk of leaving the University during their first year of higher education.

"Research shows that attrition among these two groups is highest during their first year at the institution. Currently, the University may lose 40 to 50 percent of its first-time freshman. Using a four-part strategy, the University plans to reduce that number to under 30 percent," Treviño explained.

She described the Retention Management Strategy as a way to help students adjust to the new experiences of college.

"The course is designed to rid new students of that lost feeling - not knowing who to see or where to go, with limited time - all too common for busy first-year students, and particularly detrimental to students on the academic edge. Students who have participated in the program can become mentors to new students, and act as ambassadors for the program," said Treviño, who will supervise all four components of the program.

The heart of the strategy is the "Successful First-Time Student Experience Program," which will coordinate student involvement with the other three components and other institutional service units, keep track of entering student groups in Fall semesters and measure the University's success in retaining them. A new coordinator will be hired.

In addition, a new course, entitled, "Theories and Applications of Learning Psychology," will be offered. Open to all first-time students and required by those at academic risk, the course is designed to increase academic success in the first term and teach the formula for that success. Time management skills, learning psychology theories, study and note-taking skills and pro-active academic behavior will be taught and students will apply those daily during class hours.

In the second part of the strategy, the expansion of academic advisement services, the University plans to develop of a corp of student academic advisors, supervised by faculty advisors, to aid first time students. In addition, the University plans to purchase and install a new computerized academic advisement program, University Planet, which will allow students to access information on academic programs, plan schedules and access degree plans.

The third component will expand the student counseling services. Dr. Terence Hannigan, director of Student Counseling Services, will oversee this segment.

Finally, Conchita Hickey, executive director of the Office of Programs for Academic Support, will supervise the expansion of the tutoring and supplemental instruction services, in addition to creating a Writing Center, expected to be operational by April 2002.

The four components of the Retention Management Strategy aim to correct the 1998 congressional findings that Hispanic Americans are at high risk of not enrolling or graduating from institutions of higher education, Treviño explained. Congress also found that between 1973 and 1994, the enrollment of white students in four-year institutions of higher education increased at a rate two times higher than that of Hispanic students and that disparities were increasing. Hispanic-serving institutions receive less funding, compared to other institutions of higher education. Congress declared a national interest in remedying the disparities and ensuring that Hispanic students have an equal opportunity to pursue postsecondary opportunities. To this end, Title V was created, Treviño said.

For further information about the Title V Grant, please contact Mary Treviño, general Title V coordinator, at 326.2275, visit offices in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library, room 270 or go online: www.tamiu.edu.

Journalists who need additional information or help with media requests and interviews should contact the Office of Public Affairs and Information Services at pais@tamiu.edu