A new academic year is underway and Freshman Seminar instructor and current Director of Freshman Academy, Zackeus Johnson has a fresh perspective in store for the class of 2022. What was once known as the Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence (CTLE) and the Center for Undergraduate Student Achievements (CUSA) has been redesigned and simply termed Freshman Academy, accompanied by the iSTAR (Integrated Student Teaching Advising Research and Learning Center) advising team.
As many know, Southern University takes a special interest in its incoming freshmen. The early years of undergraduate studies are what determines the rest of a student’s academic success. Therefore, our university does all it can to mentor and advise students throughout their freshman year to ensure a smooth matriculation into the Jaguar Nation.
The program was initiated under the leadership of the since-retired Dr. Luria Young. It eventually fell into the care of Johnson -- someone who could be counted on to execute and advocate on behalf of valued students.
This year, that attention extends not only to freshman students, but especially those who are underrepresented. Still in its early stages, Freshman Academy took in 150 students who showed a developmental need in either a Math or English subjects.
“Those particular students will have one-on-one academic advising, they will have free tutoring services in the iStar tutoring center or either the Pinchback Learning Center, which is a newly renovated facility,” Johnson shares. “They will have phD students as tutors as well as faculty and staff.”
While freshman studies on The Yard is a tradition in itself, one of its main goals is to uphold those of the university. “We’re making sure these students have the access which is the Freshman Academy, but how do we get the persistence,” Johnson asks. “How do we get them more proud about the Jaguar Nation, about graduating, about going to tutoring services, about learning about the culture and tradition that Southern University has to offer?”
The answer to that lies in Freshman Academy’s commitment to “inspire students to make the most of their first year on the bluff and develop a proactive approach to learning and understanding their educational options and career opportunities,” its website describes.
Included in these efforts is the university’s SUSLA Connect students. “I want SUSLA Connect students to be able to feel like they are a part of the Jaguar Nation and just know that their admission entrance is only a pipeline to ensure that they become SUBR students,” Dr. Johnson expresses.
Currently, Johnson is in line to take over the SUSLA Connect Program where students who did not initially meet SUBR’s admissions requirements can be accepted. Students participate in the program for two semesters, taking on 13 credit hours each. Dr. Johnson and his team are in the process of rewriting a grant to allow SUSLA students to take 15 credit hours in order to reach the ideal four-year graduation goal.
“We’re doing the 15 to finish in four years even though Engineering, STEM majors, and also nursing students sometimes take 4.5 maybe 5 years to finish because of the course load they have to take,” Johnson explains.
This year, freshman will experience access to mentors, free tutoring in 23 subjects, leadership development, mandatory Keys to Success Workshops, and one-on-one academic advising.
To the upperclassmen, fret not. Free tutoring and advising are available to you all as well. Jags are expected to make 2018-2019 another year to remember, but make room for our newer jags to leave their prints, too.