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Freshmen find instant community through vibrant affinity groups at University of St. Thomas

Walking onto any college campus for the very first time is exciting. But it can also produce that fish-out-of-water feeling. You haven’t yet made friends. Or discovered that happy place where you can find instant belonging and community. Here is where the University of St. Thomas-Houston provides solutions. UST’s Freshman Symposium for fall 2023 is bursting with a wider-than-ever range of affinity groups to help first-year students build community through a common interest, experience or idea.

Unique Opportunity

“We’ve seen affinity groups give first-year students a unique opportunity to further their knowledge in areas that interest them while giving them a chance to meet new friends and learn important college readiness skills,” Director of Freshman Symposium Ana Alicia Collins Lopez, M.Ed, said.

Affinity groups are a vibrant part of Freshman Symposium, a first-semester course taken by all incoming, first-year students at UST. Students can either take a standard college readiness course or join an affinity group. If they join a group, the course they take together will also offer college readiness skills, but those skills will be delivered in the context of a topic or goal the group finds particularly engaging.

Freshman Symposium Mentor, Amanda Lopez (rising junior)Testimonial from a Student Mentor

Amanda Lopez (no relation to Ana Alicia Lopez) is a rising junior majoring in Biology and minoring in Music. She also is a Freshman Symposium Mentor intent on helping to create a wonderful experience for incoming students. Amanda knows the value of joining an affinity group.

“My freshman year, I joined the Living Learning Community affinity group for Freshman Symposium,” she recalled. “The LLC aimed to help the group of incoming freshmen grow in community, specifically in the aspects of faith and service. Throughout the fall semester, my class was able to volunteer with the Houston Food Bank, pray the rosary together, and participate in other activities that allowed us to grow together and navigate our first year of college.”

St. Thomas students from Freshman Symposium participating in service workMultiplying Affinity Group Options

Last year, students successfully engaged through affinity groups like Student Athletes, Counseling and Wellness Advocacy, and the Mendenhall Experience. So, UST is building on that energy and excitement with a more extensive and ever more tempting array of interests.

Some of the 25 Affinity Group Choices:

·      The Art and Science of Magic and Illusion

·      Classic Film and the intellectual Life

·      Heroic Women: Pioneering Contributions of Women in Medicine and Science

·      Discovering Identity and Purpose

·      The Hunger Gap (tackling food insecurity)

·      Positive Psychology

·      Servant Leadership

·      Theatre, the Artists, and the Entrepreneur

·      Are We Having Fun Yet? (how to achieve genuine fun in daily life)

·      Building You Up (building on who we are through LEGOS)

·      College Readiness (skills for academic success and personal growth)

·      In Sickness and in Health: Human Genetics

·      First Gen in STEM

·      The Eras (Celt’s Version): Dr. Taylor Swift helping guide you through your college experience

·      Empower Yourself with Flamenco Dance

For the complete list of 25 affinity group selections, go here.  Follow us on instagram @ustfreshmansymposium.

Director Lopez added, “Each affinity group is led by a faculty or staff member who has a passion for the specific topic of the course. They have taken the time to prepare courses unique to any other classes offered at the University. Faculty and staff from departments all across campus are involved!”

Successful affinity groups develop into student-led groups, clubs, and even households. So, consider diving in!

UST Freshmen Convocation is scheduled for August 17, 2023.