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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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The BattalionMay 4, 2024

A&M pursues improvements in undergraduate experience

In an e-mail to Texas A&M faculty and students, University President Robert M. Gates said enhancing the undergraduate experience is the University’s major initiative this year.
“As a great university, we must always be assessing whether we are as good as we want to be, or can be,” Gates said.
Gates said a task force, led by Mary Jo Richardson, professor of oceanography, will assess the undergraduate experience – using input from students as one source – and present recommendations to the Faculty Senate no later than May 2005.
Gates said he did not use the term Vision 2020 in his e-mail and said that it does not matter if this initiative falls under the plan.
“I think quite honestly Vision 2020 has become a buzz word in the sense that there are more than a few students that react negatively when they see that,” Gates said.
Though Gates said this is an effort to enhance the undergraduate experience, some students do not wholly support it.
“It isn’t Gates’ plan, it’s the Board of Regents’ and I think they’re out of touch with the University and its history,” said Taylor Stansbury, a sophomore journalism major. “They’re focused more on becoming like everyone else in higher education, and A&M stands out from everyone else right now because of its traditions.”
Stansbury said that becoming a top-ranking university would require making sacrifices, such as the cutting of the journalism department.
“I knew so many people who wanted to come to A&M and they wanted to be in journalism and they couldn’t do it,” Stansbury said. “We lost a lot of good students because of stuff like that. We’re losing students who could make a different at this campus because (of making changes to programs).”
Liz Dicus, a freshman biomedical sciences major, said that as long as students keep the Aggie spirit alive and old Aggies remain a part of A&M, the University won’t lose its distinguishable characteristics.
“I don’t think making improvements will really affect the quality of spirit here and the traditions of A&M,” Dicus said. “If they do start to (affect tradition), people will correct it.”
Enhancements that the task force will look at promoting a common freshman year experience, learning communities and intentionally integrating the academic and extracurricular experiences of students.
Gates said the common freshman experience is a way to reinforce the Aggie family.
“(It is the) idea of having all freshman take certain courses or set of courses and meeting people in other colleges,” Gates said.
Dicus said this would help freshman study with and meet other freshman.
Gates said learning communities could help create a small college experience within A&M.
Matt Fuller, program coordinator in the Office of Institutional Assessment and Diversity, said learning communities are groups of students who come together under an educational interest or a social interest to learn about the interest.
“Basically, it is the integration of curricular with co-curricular environments,” Fuller said, “how to employ what you are learning inside the classroom to the outside world and vice versa.”
Gates said these learning communities already exist in the business school and the task force will look into expanding them.
Gates said he thinks some students are concerned that the University is simply chasing rankings, but that is not the goal.
“The goal is a better educational experience,” Gates said. “If we do that, then recognition and ranking will follow of their own accord, but they are not the goal.”
Stansbury said that simply by trying to achieve a higher national collegiate ranking, students with different priorities will be attracted to coming to A&M.
“I see it as sort of a catch 22-you’re going to get students that want to be at a school (ranked) in the top 20 (nationally) but you’re going to loose those students that would have contributed to various organizations,” Stansbury said.
Student Body President Jack Hildebrand said student involvement in the task force is a must.
“I think it’s going to be important for students to play a role in the task force to make sure this is something they want,” Hildebrand said.
Gates said A&M traditions have withstood far greater changes than the ones he is proposing.
“This University underwent a revolution in the 1960s when (General) Rudder made it co-ed and the Corps voluntary,” Gates said. “The tradition and spirit and culture survived that dramatic change…(there is) no reason to believe they won’t survive (this one).”
Gates said A&M traditions have withstood far greater changes than the ones he is proposing.
“This university underwent a revolution in the 1960s when (General) Rudder made it coed and the Corp voluntary,” Gates said. “The tradition and spirit and culture survived that dramatic change…(there is) no reason to believe they won’t survive (this one).”

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