This fall, when incoming freshmen come to campus, some will be joining not only the University and the college where they major — they will join one of six learning communities.
The small learning communities are designed specifically for students by major or interests, says Irena Praitis, professor of English, comparative literature and linguistics, and interim director of freshman programs.
“We found that this is one of the strengths of the program — it develops a sense of community, of belonging, and students that feel more connected to their peers and to their University are more likely to succeed in college.”
The newest of the learning communities is Mihaylo First Year, which was established last year for pre-business majors. It introduces participants to various opportunities, programs and career paths within the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics. The others are:
- Fullerton First Year develops leadership skills and encourages campus and community involvement.
- Compass helps students explore personal goals, identify strengths and choose the right major and career path.
- Compass for Health and Human Development Majors introduces students to the range of career options in health and human services fields.
- Fullerton Future Teachers guides students interested in teaching careers by providing specialized advising and field experiences in K-12 classrooms.
- iSustain explores the inter-connectedness of everything on the planet and is designed for any student interested in sustainability from a personal perspective, as a civic issue, or as a career opportunity.
“I liked how Freshman Programs always demonstrated support to do my absolute best when it came to my academics,” said Jocelyne Pacheco, a sophomore pre-business major. “Freshmen Programs helped me by always providing me with the necessities I need to make my first year of college easier. …”
Christina Esquibel agrees, noting the opportunities to meet others and make friends. “Definitely take up this opportunity; it will be so helpful to you.”
“Students begin right at the start in their own section of University Studies 100,” Praitis explains. As part of the program, “each University 100 class section has a First-Year Success Team that includes the faculty member and a peer mentor. The teams support students as they transition into college.
“We also designate certain general education courses for each learning community. A specific number of seats are held open for the Freshman Program participants, so they have ready-made connections with others in the class and the opportunity to expand their connections with those outside of the learning community.”
Freshman Programs also offers advising services, an early alert probation program, academic field trips and other activities designed to provide new students with everything they need for the best possible start to college life.
And the effort succeeds. More than 90 percent of students in the program continue into their sophomore year, maintain good academic status and graduate at significantly higher rates than other students, Praitis notes.
“We try to offer programming that will keep them involved and engaged, even when they complete the one-year program,” says Praitis. “There’s a place for them to gather in the residence halls, as well as movie nights, homecoming and an end-of-the-year event. Participating students also are encouraged to take part in service learning activities. Being engaged and involved adds a richness to the college experience.”