New ‘Department of Undergraduate Studies’ will Bridge Island University Academic Colleges

Published: May 08, 2017

New ‘Department of Undergraduate Studies’ will Bridge Island University Academic Colleges

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – With an ever-increasing student population at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, the need for a new department emerged. The Department of Undergraduate Studies (DUGS) recently made its debut during an open house in April. DUGS now provides a new, more cohesive home for multi-disciplinary programs. These programs are designed to retain and engage with students.

“There are several programs on campus that involve working with students from across multiple colleges. It made sense to bring these programs together into one department,” said Dr. Melissa Jarrell, Professor of Criminal Justice and Chair of DUGS. “We’re all in this together to help students succeed. DUGS is the bridge between departments, colleges and units across campus.”

DUGS is considered a unit in Academic Affairs and is not housed in a particular academic college. Under its umbrella, DUGS includes the Core Curriculum and the First-Year Learning Communities Program (FYLCP). It is made up of multi-disciplinary programs including first-year seminar, the Honors Program, the University Preparatory High School (UPHS) program, the University Studies degree program and the Bachelor of Applied Science degree program.

“Retention is one of the biggest issues on campus,” said Jarrell. “DUGS will allow us to better manage these programs and make the transition into college life easier for our new Islanders.”

To assist in retaining students, the FYLCP is designed to ease the transition from high school to college. Each student is enrolled in the program during their first two semesters at the Island University, and are placed into interconnected classes. This includes a first-year seminar, of which there are more than 100 sections per semester. In seminar, students learn to navigate campus resources and develop effective academic skills.

“Seminar instructors have the hardest and most rewarding job on campus,” said Jarrell. “The instructors are there for students on day one and help integrate them into academic life.”

The Center for Academic Student Achievement (CASA) and Academic Advising’s college advisors are working together through DUGS to improve retention. United, they have piloted the Destination Graduation program. For each learning community, the goal is to have two peer mentors and two academic advisors who will go above and beyond for the students by volunteering their time. With a better student to advisor ratio, students will have more of an opportunity to reach out if they are struggling academically or personally. With this new program, DUGS brings much needed resources directly to students.

“For some of the larger majors, there are not a lot of major advisors to go around and meet with the students immediately,” said Jarrell. “In their learning community, the students get an advisor and a peer mentor. These peer mentors are great, because they are juniors or seniors who know what the freshmen are going through. The peer mentors can advise the students on what they should try to achieve.”

DUGS also has ties to the Flour Bluff Independent School District with the UPHS program. This program allows students from Flour Bluff High School to take college classes. The UPHS mission is to build a solid foundation for these students, empower students and enhance community relations. When the high school students graduate, they are more likely to find a home at the familiar Island University.

In addition to helping students transition from high school, DUGS also works with the high achieving students across colleges and in the Honor’s Program. One of Jarrell’s future goals is to build upon the Honor’s Program. Working with her departmental colleagues, she would like to be able to match students with faculty members for research early on in a student’s academic career.

To learn more about DUGS, visit