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San Jacinto College
News Release
Sunday, May 22, 2011

First Year Experience coordinators help to ease transition to college

PASADENA, Texas – New San Jacinto College (SJC) First Year Experience (FYE) coordinators Andrea Mitchen, Elizabeth Garcia, and Holly Williams have the important job of helping first-time college students make the challenging transition to college life.

SJC recently created the FYE coordinator position to address a very real and critical issue that many colleges face. According to 2008 research (the latest available), the National Center for Education Statistics estimated the number of first-time community college students in the Texas Gulf Coast area who left by the end of the first year, and the figures ranged between 20.2 and 59.2 percent. For the same time period, up to 47 percent of first-time-in-college students left San Jacinto College by the end of the first year.

“First-time college students have needs specific to their experience, and adjusting to college life can involve difficulties and challenges,” commented Dr. Brook Zemel, SJC vice president of student development. “Many are under-prepared. More than 60 percent of first-time college students need to take at least one college preparatory course for a variety of reasons. San Jacinto College is committed, long term, to the success of these first-time students, which led to the creation of the FYE coordinator position at all three SJC campuses.”

All three of the College’s new FYE coordinators are particularly qualified to help first-time students. Garcia, who serves as the Central campus FYE coordinator, holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Texas A&I University, and a master’s degree in communications from Eastern New Mexico University. She most recently served as the dean of student life at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. Before that, Garcia was the director of residential living at Sul Ross, and director of student activities and housing at McCook Community College in McCook, Nebraska.

Mitchen, who serves as the North campus FYE coordinator, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Winthrop University, and a Master of Arts in student affairs administration in higher education from Ball State University. Before coming to SJC, she served as assistant director of Greek life and intercultural education at the University of Texas, and as an enrollment advisor at the University of Phoenix-Woodlands. Mitchen has been actively involved with several college student associations, including the Association of Fraternity Advisors, where she served on the programming committee. She has also facilitated for the Undergraduate Interfraternity Institute.

Williams, who serves as the South campus FYE coordinator, holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of South Carolina-Aiken, and a Master of Science in higher education administration from Florida State University. She served as the assistant director of student activities at Rice University, and as the student activities program manager at Lone Star College – Cy-Fair, where she advised the student government association and Student Orientation and Retention leaders.

SJC’s new FYE coordinators are responsible for helping first-time students with a variety of resources and services, such as new student orientation, workshops, newsletters, tutoring services, social activities, and an innovative calling program recently started by the College. The calling program is designed to improve student retention by connecting first-time students with trained student leaders, who keep in touch with new students through a series of phone calls.

“The calling program student leaders have proven qualifications for making calls to new students,” remarked Zemel. “The student leaders receive continuous and extensive training and hold a broad knowledge about the support services provided by the College. We believe a peer-to-peer interaction will yield better results.”  If a student leader identifies a first-time student with specific needs, such as financial aid, educational planning, career counseling, or personal issues, then the student leader contacts a FYE coordinator, who in turn takes appropriate action. “This serves as an ‘early alert’ system for first-time students,” Zemel said.

About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for nearly 50 years. We are committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of more than 29,000 students in over 140 degree and certificate options, including university transfer and career-track choices. Students also benefit from the College’s job training programs, renowned for meeting the needs of ever-changing industry in the region. San Jacinto College. Your Goals. Your College.

For more information about San Jacinto College, please call 281-998-6150, visit, or find us on Facebook at

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