CLASSmates connects students
Students in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences are participating in a program that creates a community-style learning environment that focuses on retaining freshman from one semester to the next.
This fall commemorates the second year of the program, “CLASSmates,” in which the college’s academic advisers came together to assist first-time college students to navigate successfully through their first year at the university.
“The CLASSmates program is a pilot program that we developed,” said Chadi Lewis, program manager for the CLASSmates program and CLASS advisor. “It started fall 2011, and this is our second group of students. The goal of the program is to get a cohort of students into the same courses. For this semester, the same students who are in the history course, History 1376 — the required core history course — are also the same students who are in POLS 1336.”
According to its website, CLASS is the largest and most diverse of the 12 colleges at the University, housing 16 schools and educating over 11,000 students. Many of these students meet during orientation.
“These are all orientation students that we have put in the same courses. It’s good actually because they created a student group — a cohort of students — where hopefully they can all grow and graduate together. It’s like a support system,” Lewis said.
The intent is to get the students accustomed to college-level curricula and campus life in as diverse and densely populated a city as Houston, Lewis said.
“Our goal is to get them connected and help them their first semester to get them more connected to the UH community. Coming from high school and a classroom of 30 and then going to a classroom where you are 300 or more, it is intimidating. Coming to UH is pretty intimidating,” Lewis said.
“We want them too come to these groups, to know that there is someone to assist you.”
If the students’ academic progress starts to slip, the program offers tutoring and other academic support to get them back on track.
“We had the Writing Center go to the history course to talk to the students and tell them about the services.” Lewis said. “They also told them not to wait until the midterm or finals but to go now and take advantage of those resources for those research papers.”
The program also emphasizes the importance of getting involved on campus.
“We want to encourage students to bond, stay at the University, and graduate in six years or less,” said David Phillips, interim associate dean for undergraduate studies in a news release.
The program participants are able to experience college life together, meeting different people and creating friendships that have long-lasting potential.
“We have noticed that the students are actually connecting in their individual sections too, because they already see a familiar face. If you have a group of 150 or so students, when they go to the bigger or smaller ones, they still are a group,” Lewis said.
“They go to tutoring at the same time. Learning and Support Services has tutoring Monday through Sunday, but these groups tend to go at the same time.”
Debreka Young, a political science freshman, said she’s glad she got involved with the program.
“It has helped me make new friends, and it is easier for us to form study groups,” said Young
With these tools and each other, this year’s association is on the path to sure success, and the college can look forward to all of them returning for another semester.
“We are encouraging them to be more connected to UH. I feel that if you’re more connected, you stay and you grow and get better grades,” Lewis said.