Upper-division professors can help degree planning in FIGs

Taylor Newman

For freshmen, wrapping up the first semester of college is both a time of relief, but also a time of dread. They’ve made it through their first semester, but the rest of college is a mystery.

This can be an even bigger issue for freshmen in First-Year Interest Groups. The tight-knit group of friends — in some cases, people you had all of your classes with — is about to disappear, and your classes are no longer guaranteed for you. 

FIGs should introduce upper-division professors to their freshmen so they are better prepared for college and are aware of all the possibilities their major has.

The simple rebuttal is that students have academic advisors to help them with degree planning. But while academic advisors can show you a paper with the classes you need to take to graduate, they usually don’t know you well enough to advise you on which path to take. 

Undeclared freshmen Ayush Agrawal went to the Vick Center for Strategic Advising and Career Counseling, which helped him create a degree plan to hopefully transfer into the McCombs School of Business.

“The advisors basically just tell you what classes to take or what the required steps are, which can be found online,” Agrawal said. “(Compared to) what a professor can show you, which is the insight or what students in the past have done.”

Biochemistry freshman Abhiraj Sinha said meeting with professors would have helped him feel more comfortable going into the upcoming semester. He said he wishes his FIG introduced him to professors who teach genetics and organic chemistry, the next tier of classes required for pre-med students. 

“Both of those classes are not only extremely difficult, they can be really confusing at times,” Sinha said. “I think it would be really helpful if professors from both of those courses would come and talk to the FIG students.” 

But Daniel Nguyen, a psychology junior and peer mentor, said not all FIG members have the same degree path. Nguyen, who teaches the pre-health FIG for the College of Liberal Arts, said that his FIG has psychology, economics and health and society majors. 

“There are some random FIGs where the only reason why they are together is because they have one class together about vampires,” Nguyen said. “Forcing a FIG to bring in a specific professor for a specific major might be hard (for those FIGs).”

While FIGs are currently required to bring in professors, these professors are not required to talk about future classes.

“We let the FIG itself decide who to bring into the seminar,” said Lisa Valdez, the senior administrative program coordinator for FIGs. “We encourage them to bring in someone in the common courses that the students are already taking.”

Valdez said that the idea is to have students get a more personal look at their professors, rather than a look into the class or to get advice. But having a safe space for students to talk to a future professor and to learn about where their major could take them — whether that be a study abroad program or a research opportunity — would be game-changing for students that early on in their degree.

It should be a part of the mandatory curriculum for FIGs to bring in future professors students may want or end up having. Even if a FIG has a diverse group of students, the FIG mentor can allow the students to vote on which professor they wish to speak to. 

Having professors come talk to freshmen is something that the FIG program already does for the students’ current classes. Having future professors come in is a natural extension of the FIG program and its benefits for freshmen.

Newman is a journalism junior from Frisco.