Incoming freshmen will have an opportunity to participate in a pilot first-year experience program in the fall semester before it is implemented campus-wide in the future.
Hullabaloo U is a year-long, 0-hour first-year experience course that will meet once a week for 50 minutes during normal class times. In each section, a selected peer mentor and a faculty or staff member will lead a group of 25 or fewer freshmen in helping them achieve their academic and personal goals, connecting them with campus resources and creating a smaller community within a large university environment.
Hullabaloo U director Meredith Malnar said enrollment will be limited to freshmen for now, and because it is a zero-hour course, it does not incur additional tuition or fees. Incoming freshmen can learn more about the program during their New Student Conference and sign up during registration.
“Hullabaloo U is committed to the holistic development of students as scholars and unique individuals,” Malnar said. “The 50 minutes spent with their Hullabaloo U group each week will be the space for them to process this huge life change that they are all going through while surrounded by the support to help them thrive.”
The program was created last summer when Provost and Executive Vice President Carol Fierke assembled a Student Success Initiative task force to increase first-year retention rates from 92 to 95 percent, four-year graduation rates from 54 to 65 percent, and six-year graduation rates from 82 to 85 percent.
Three other subcommittees were established to focus on creating a graduation help desk and enhancing the Regents’ scholars program, first-generation student programs, and academic advising, in addition to the impact of a campus-wide first-year experience.
Malnar said creating a sense of belonging is key in increasing the retention of college students.
“Texas A&M University is a very large institution and can be complex to navigate,” Malnar said. “Each student walking into a Hullabaloo U course will find a welcoming and affirming environment, a faculty or staff instructor who is committed to their success, a peer mentor to help them navigate the transition experience, and a community of other first year students.”
A&M currently has similar courses through learning communities, co-curricular programs and courses within individual colleges or departments. Malnar said these programs only serve a percentage of students, but they can become certified as a future freshmen’s Hullabaloo U requirement.
“Our goal is to build off of the effective efforts that are currently happening and extend that approach to all first year students,” Malnar said. “The diversity of offerings will be a benefit to our students who can be served by a program that best suits their unique needs and interests.”
Mathematics freshman Jonathan Aberle participates in the Honors Housing Community which requires freshmen to sign up for a similar course called an Honors Family Meeting. The program places freshmen in groups of less than 15 each led by a sophomore advisor (SA) that meet every week and discuss academic and personal goals.
“It was certainly reassuring the first few weeks to know that I already had people that cared about me,” Aberle said. “It’s nice knowing that I can talk to someone like an SA in private if I need to.”
Assistant Provost for Academic Affairs Timothy Scott said the goal of the Student Success Initiative is to increase retention and graduation regardless of ethnicity, first-generation status, gender or family income levels.
“I believe Hullabaloo U will be the newest Aggie tradition to provide every Aggie a sense of belonging in an entering class of more than 10,000 peers,” Scott said. “Like all great Aggie traditions, it will be led and inspired by students providing selfless service.”