UMBC’s First-Year Experience has helped students build their academic skills and gain a better understanding of the UMBC campus since 1989. After a reconstruction of the First-Year Experience program during the 2000’s, Introduction to an Honors University Seminars have been added to general education classes, and they offer an extra credit hour to students in their respective IHU courses. However, for many students, taking any kind of First-Year Experience course is not something they have done.
Participation in an IHU course may be optional for most students, excluding certain Living Learning Communities on campus, but students should still take advantage of the opportunity. In these courses, students discuss subjects such as different methods for learning, what makes up a healthy diet and how to budget.
UMBC’s Assistant Vice Provost and Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Education, Jill Randles, remembered a former student’s praise for the course. “She said, ‘Jill, I want you to know I got a 4.00 this semester,'” Randles recalled. “I knew how much she had struggled in her first semester and how hard it was for her … she said, ‘You know all that time management stuff we had from the IHU? I actually pulled that out and used it.'”
The courses have other benefits as well. According to Randles, IHU classes help students create a personal connection to their campus and meaningful relationships with their fellow students and staff.
“If a student takes one, they immediately have those connections because of having taken the class,” explained Laila Shishineh, UMBC’s Assistant Director of Academic Engagement and Transition Programs. “So students who don’t take one won’t have that connection to someone who works on campus.”
In addition to connections with staff and classmates, having peer mentors within the classroom has made incoming students feel more comfortable within their new environment. Randles described how the many opportunities for IHU students to connect have led her office to see a higher retention rate of freshmen and transfers coming to campus.
Besides IHU classes, UMBC currently offers Transfer Seminars and First-Year Seminars for new students. However, students’ academic advisers typically recommend they take an IHU course freshmen year, and for transfer students they recommend a Transfer or First-Year Seminar. Denoted with a Y on the course selection guide, IHU classes are part of the First-Year Experience program.
Today, the IHU program has grown substantially since its conception, but the staff here at UMBC would love to see it grow more. They are passionate about making sure new students transition smoothly into university life and students enjoy their careers here at UMBC.
“I go to every single orientation, and I remind the advisers to encourage students to sign up for our first-year courses,” said Shishineh.
More students should enroll in IHU seminars as freshmen because it would not only help expand the program, but it would also help students be prepared for college life.