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Hit the books

Corps embarks on academic initiatives, measures success

Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Updated: Wednesday, January 15, 2014 23:01

Computer

Jenna Rabel

Sophomore history major Joseph Sherer studies on a computer in Evans Library Annex.

Graph

William Guerra

In an effort to be leaders in every aspect on campus, the Corps of Cadets has put into place initiatives to raise the academic standards of both the Corps and the University.

Since 2008, the overall Corps GPR for a fall semester hovered around a 2.7. However, for 2013 the GPR jumped to 2.89, the same as the overall University GPR. The improvement has been credited to a number of programs that have been started within the Corps to help the cadets with their academics.

Corps Commandant Brig. Gen. Joe Ramirez said the motivation to establish academic assistance programs for members of the Corps was inspired by the real life issues recent college graduates are facing. Ramirez said cadets who do well academically while at A&M would be more competitive in the job market when they graduate.

“With as many as 36 percent of college graduates since 2008 still without a full-time job, we have learned that a major discriminator for employers who are looking at hiring college grads is their GPR,” Ramirez said. “That cuts across all career fields, including corporate America, government service and even the military.”

In the last few years, the Corps has begun a number of initiatives to encourage and assist cadets with their studies, including the development of the Buzbee Leadership Learning Center in Fall 2012. Ramirez said the programs and the new facilities have promoted a message of academic excellence within the Corps.

“[We have] mandatory study time, full-time academic advisors on my staff, academic mentors for every unit in the Corps, tutoring provided free for all cadets in critical subjects — physics, chemistry, calculus, et cetera — new facilities for our cadets to use for academics, like the Buzbee Leadership Learning Center and a structured environment that encourages upperclass cadets to assist underclassmen in academics are all elements of our strategy to improve the academic standing of the Corps on campus,” Ramirez said.

Meredith Simpson, Corps academic advisor, said the idea for the academic programs started within the Office of the Commandant, which made academics the first priority in the Corps.

“The directive started at the staff level and has disseminated down to the cadets through our cadet leadership chain,” Simpson said. “Changes to the cadet daily routine place an emphasis on the academic day and allow for a more conducive study environment in the evenings.”

Eric Gil, Corps commander and senior industrial engineering major, said one specific program that has led to the higher GPR is the time set aside in the evenings for studying.

“Over the last year or so, we have worked out the kinks to this [evening study time] policy that was a dramatic change to our old policy of Call to Quarters, which was essentially a forced study period after evening formation,” Gil said. “With this EST policy, the dorms are quieter and cadets are able to study better.”

Gil said Wednesdays feature a “Marathon EST” which begins three hours earlier than other days of the week.

One problem the Corps has faced in the past was that the underclassmen had required study hours, or Call to Quarters, in the evening, but the requirement dropped once they became a junior, which Gil said negatively affected the cadets who did not know how to study on their own. With adjustments made to EST, the junior class this semester posted the highest GPR of all the classes.

Gil said the GPR increase in the fall is also a notable reflection of improvement because of the Corps involvement with football at that time of year.

“This GPR is also significant because we had the most home football games ever and even with these time commitments our cadets were able to be successful,” Gil said.

Joseph Sherer, junior history major, said he has found the academic changes within the Corps beneficial and that cadets are expected to perform well in classes.

“There’s definitely an academic focus within the Corps, mandated study hours which is helpful and if you fall below a certain standard then you’ll just have meetings with scholastic officers and they’ll try to help you out,” Sherer said.

Ramirez said the GPR might have an effect on the recruiting of future cadets in the next few years.

“All of this certainly helps us in our recruiting efforts — especially at a time when the competition to get into Texas A&M gets tougher every year,” Ramirez said. “Our message to young people seeking to attend Texas A&M is that they can join the Corps and be successful academically.”

Simpson said the rise in GPR is a step in the right direction.

“Raising our term GPA allows the Corps to produce a better cadet and future former student for Texas A&M,” Simpson said. “The cadets that leave the quad now are more competitive in the military or the private sector because of their increased academic achievement.”

While the change in GPR is an improvement for the Corps, Gil said the Corps will not stop there.

“The academic improvements made within the Corps are amazing, but we are not done yet,” Gil said. “Our goal for the spring semester is a 3.00 overall GPR, a feat that has never been attained, but is certainly reachable.”

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