Freshman interest groups

Thursday, July 29, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

To help ease students into college life, MU offers a program widely known as FIGS.

FIGS, or freshman interest groups, put 15 to 20 students together who share the same major and will take many of the same classes. About 119 FIGS have been organized for fall semester.

For more information

For information on FIGS: Call 882-3447 or e-mail

For information on Learning Communities: Call 882-7275 or e-mail

Department of Residential Life office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Accounting students, for example, may join a FIG and meet fellow like-minded first-year students.

FIGs live together in a residence hall and take three weekly classes together. They also take part in a weekly FIG pro-seminar.

Lindsay Cochrum, the FIG student coordinator, said 50 percent of the pro-seminar deals with adjustment to college life and 50 percent is focused on the FIG’s core subject — accounting, journalism or nursing, for example.

FIGs also attend organized events related to their chosen topic or theme.

A theme could be a broad field of study, such as journalism, or a more specific focus, such as photojournalism, according to the MU undergraduate admissions office.

There are also honors groups in the FIG program and general learning groups that spend freshman year exploring careers and majors.

Cochrum said each FIG has a peer adviser who lives in the same residence hall as the group.

The peer adviser is an upper-level undergraduate student who is available to help students adjust to college life, as well as answer questions about classes and majors.

FIGs also have an assigned faculty mentor directly related to their chosen field of study who assists the peer adviser.

“People should be in a FIG because it’s instant friends and is a really cool way to get into college and meet a lot of people right away,” Cochrum said.

Dorothy Gill, 19-year-old sophomore who joined one of the nursing FIGs as a freshman, agreed.

“They would help set up study sessions together so you meet a group of people that you already have something in common," she said. "Mizzou is such a big school.”

FIGs begun in 1995 after a three-year development phase. It had already proved successful both academically and socially at other institutions.

“The programs began to help students succeed academically in their transition to MU,” said Jeff Weise, who served as FIG faculty coordinator for seven years.

FIGs and TRIGs (Transfer Interest Groups) help students connect with faculty members and advisers in their major early in their career at MU, Wiese said.

"The programs also encourage students to see each other as resources for studying and in their overall success at MU,” he added.

MU surveys have found that students involved in a FIG have a better chance of continuing on with their studies.

A survey conducted in 2005 found an 86 percent retention rate for freshmen students who had joined a FIG, compared to 82 percent of students who did not participate.

Students who participated in a FIG also had an average GPA of 2.96, compared to an average GPA of 2.79 among students not involved in a FIG.

Results continued to be higher for those who were involved in a FIG even after their freshman year, compared to those who weren’t. Graduation rates were also higher for those who participated in a FIG during their freshman year.

“It is a really good way to meet people," Gill said. "I really liked it. I met one of my good friends in it.”

Similar to FIGs are Learning Communities, which are larger groups of students who also share similar academic or career interests.

Learning Communities are groups of 50 to 200 students. They differ from FIGs because they are open to all undergraduate students.

There are 23 Learning Communities in various residence halls scattered around campus. 

A student community adviser lives on each floor and helps coordinate activities and events. Similar to FIGs, students involved in these communities live among others with similar academic or career interests. These students are not required to enroll in the same classes as fellow members, but may choose to do so.

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