First-Year Seminar and Learning Communities

TO: Islander Faculty and Academic Staff
SUBJECT: First-Year Seminar and Learning Communities

Dear Islander Faculty and Academic Staff, 

We continue to explore ways to improve our students success. For the past eight years, our first-year retention rate has averaged 58 percent, and we have not been able to make consistent progress in student retention. In addition, we have had a steady increase in the number of first-year students enrolling in TAMU-CC with some college credit. In Fall 2017, 37 percent of all first-year students entered with college credit while in Fall 2021, we had 47 percent of all first-year students start with some college credit. As you can imagine, this percent is likely to continue increasing over the next few years.

As I shared with you during the Fall 2021 Faculty/Staff Meeting, we need to do things differently to better serve our students. Our First-Year Learning Communities Program, which attaches the First-Year Seminar to two or more hard-linked paired Core courses, does not grant the flexibility needed by 47 percent of our entering students. Unfortunately, students cannot get the Core courses they want or need because of the hard-linked courses.

For these reasons, Dean Campbell was asked to assemble a Learning Communities Task Force to identify ways that we might decouple the First-Year Seminar from the paired courses. Because both first-year seminars and learning communities have demonstrated effectiveness with student retention and engagement, the goal was to find a path forward where both could be retained. Decoupling the First-Year Seminar from paired courses will allow us to design a First-Year Seminar Program tailored specifically for the needs of students we serve today and build a more robust Learning Communities Program for students at all levels.

Our next step is to have a team of faculty and staff redesign the First-Year Seminar. Since decisions about the First-Year Seminar impact all undergraduate programs, we would like to have faculty participation from each of the colleges and staff from student success areas. If you are interested in serving on this team and have some summer availability, please contact Jill Ratliff (Interim Associate Provost) at You may view the Learning Communities Task Force Report here

I am grateful to the faculty and staff that built and sustained TAMU-CC’s existing First-Year Learning Communities Program. As a model program, it has served thousands of students very well. As we prepare to move forward with two new models, their knowledge and experience will be invaluable. 


Clarenda M. Phillips, PhD
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs