Leaders in Island University’s First-Year Learning Communities Become Trailblazers in Nationwide Organization

Published: May 04, 2017

Leaders in Island University’s First-Year Learning Communities Become Trailblazers in Nationwide Organization

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The shift from high school to college can sometimes be difficult, with the addition of new classes, new friends, new schedules and new experiences. The Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s First-Year Learning Communities Program (FYLCP), established in 1994, was formed to help ease that transition and continues to explore better ways for students to learn and for faculty to teach.

Learning communities exist across the United States, though until recently, there was no national organization to provide a platform for exchanging ideas, research and best practices. To fill that void and improve student learning outcomes, leaders within the Island University’s FYLCP led the way in creating Learning Communities Association (LCA), a national organization committed to “advancing college student learning, success, and development through networking, advocacy, research, and professional development within learning community theory and practice.”

Dr. Carlos Huerta, Political Science Professor at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, has been elected LCA founding president and Dr. Rita Sperry, FYLCP Coordinator at A&M-Corpus Christi, has been elected LCA’s founding Secretary/Treasurer.

“The Founders of our Islander FYLCP were very innovative,” said Huerta. “They put into place a program that is arguably the most far-reaching learning communities program in the nation. All our first-year students are in learning communities. Faculty and staff working with our FYLCP are engaged nationally with learning communities. We work to develop the best learning community experience for our students and we share that with other institutions so we can promote student success.”

At Island University, first-year students take a triad or tetrad, which is a series of three or four interconnected classes. Everyone attends a large lecture class, and then students are broken up into smaller groups to take two or three additional classes with the same people. Students in the FYLCP see familiar faces and similar assignment themes throughout their first year of college.

“By connecting the classes together, the students are better able to learn and understand the material from their classes,” said Huerta. “During the seminar classes, the seminar professors address any issues the students are having. Students are advised the best practices to achieve goals in college by learning to develop effective academic skills and campus resources.”

By all accounts, the learning communities provide multiple advantages and engage the students.

“Learning communities are considered a high-impact educational practice by the Association of American Colleges & Universities because of their relationship to increased student engagement and persistence,” said Sperry.

To learn more about LCA, go to lcassociation.org. For more information about A&M-Corpus Christi’s First-Year Learning Community, go to dugs.tamucc.edu/fylcp.