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LU freshman interest groups provide community, mentorship

BEAUMONT — Lamar University now offers Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs), an opportunity for first-year students to develop a sense of community as they attend classes and participate in various activities with their mentors and fellow classmates.

“The beauty of this program is that it helps students socially adjust to the university but also adjust academically speaking,” said Celine Hodge, Cardinal Learning Engagement and Development coordinator. “Often students have the ability to discover their field more in-depth thanks to these FIGs. We want the students to get acquainted with the university and its resources.”

Hodge said FIGs are organized according to their colleges and departments, allowing students who share similar majors or interests a chance to connect.

“The first semester is about bonding,” she said. “Often when students are starting out, they don’t know how to reach out. The beauty is that the whole group is learning together. They’re becoming friends and family. It’s pretty powerful.”

Studies demonstrate that students who join FIGs or learning communities tend to have a higher GPA and success rate, Hodge said.

“Research shows that there is a correlation between the first few weeks of college and the graduation rate,” she said. “The transition is so drastic between high school and the university that FIGs help students progress at a human scale. We want students to feel as if they are part of the university, and we also want for them to make sure their field is really what they want to go for. We’re trying to avoid any possible derailment from the get-go.”

FIG students meet for an hour once a week with a faculty mentor and a staff mentor.

“Mentors facilitate interactions between students and provide icebreakers for the students to get to know one another,” she said. “They try to survey the interests of their students. Their role is to be there and to establish a dialogue with the students and make sure they’re doing well. Their role varies a lot based on the students’ expectations and needs.”

The idea to bring FIGs to Lamar University was faculty-driven, Hodge said.

“The faculty brought President Evans support for the idea of increasing learning communities on campus,” she said. “He was in support of it along with the rest of upper administration. Then this summer it all came to fruition.”

With about 600 students involved in 30 FIGs, Hodge said the program has yielded successful results.

“We really are pleased so far as to what’s been happening with this establishment,” she said. “We’ve had a great enrollment of students and the participation of faculty and staff has been extraordinary.”

For more information, contact Celine Hodge at (409) 880-8115 or celine.hodge@lamar.edu.