UT introduces MicroMajors to high school students

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Photo Credit: Rachel West

A new program that offers majors to high school students will allow Austin 9-12th graders to get a taste of UT before they graduate.

Next year, UT will partner with Austin Independent School District (AISD) to offer TEXAS MicroMajors to students in select high schools. Students can earn MicroMajors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), multidisciplinary studies or arts and humanities. The program is designed to help students learn the skills they need to academically perform well at universities.

“We’ve seen that many high school students have done everything they’ve been asked — won awards, were top of their class — but when they get to UT, they find that their high school expectations and UT expectations may not align well,” said Harrison Keller, Deputy to the President for Strategy and Policy for UT. “We’d like to eradicate that misalignment problem.”

Participating students will choose two courses from a UT-approved list of dual-enrollment, dual-credit or online courses, in addition to taking two Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses. The list is designed by administrators and department faculty to include classes that are on par with UT expectations, based on past performance by UT students in those fields. The STEM option will include courses in physics, pre-calculus, statistics, computer science and geoscience.

The program builds on other existing UT partnerships and its OnRamps program, which offers dual-enrollment at UT to Texas high school students. Faculty, staff and sponsors collaborate with public school teachers to design courses.

MicroMajor options are designed to complement the 2013 House Bill 5 endorsements, which are concentrations in a specific field that students can earn by completing four additional credits. MicroMajor options match three of five endorsements, with future MicroMajors potentially expanding beyond the options offered by House Bill 5.

The three high schools participating in the pilot program — Akins High School, Bowie High School and Reagan High School — were selected to be representative of different student populations within AISD and serve a wide variety of students, Keller said. In the future, UT hopes to scale the program across AISD and other Texas school districts.

Brandi Hosack, the principal of Akins High School, said she thinks the program will greatly benefit students.

“Showing them the possibilities — connecting those dots — is really important,” Hosack said.  “I forsee this being something they really latch onto and that they’re proud to accomplish.”

Students can be nominated for a MicroMajor by their teachers, counselors or themselves.

“This is important not just for students coming to UT — it’s important for the state of Texas,” Keller said. “UT plays an important leadership role in partnerships with other universities. Some of the students who complete MicroMajors may attend ACC, Texas State, Texas Tech, even A&M, but they should know and we should know that the students are ready to be competitive from the first moment they step on campus.”