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Engineering Student Success

A FIG legacy continues on to the next generation

Published August 30, 2017
Story by Erik Potter / MIZZOU Magazine
Photo courtesy of Tom Schmid

Tom Schmid in front of desk in dorm room in the '90s

Ah, dorm life in the ’90s. Tom Schmid, BS ME ’97, was a peer adviser in the Freshman Interest Group (FIG) program the year it launched. His son Conner Schmid, a freshman, is joining a FIG this fall.

When freshman Conner Schmid decided to go to Mizzou and major in engineering, his father had some advice for him. Conner’s dad, Tom Schmid, earned a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Mizzou in 1997. He credits his academic success to the group-study habit he developed as a freshman and then honed informally as a sophomore helping freshmen in his residence hall. 

In 1995, Tom’s junior year, he jumped at the chance to formalize that role when MU’s Department of Residential Life launched a learning community called Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs). The program puts “peer advisers” and 15 to 20 students with similar interests near each other in a residence hall. The students take classes together and a seminar given by the peer adviser and a faculty member or staff instructor. 

The program, which has been shown to improve students’ GPA, has grown from 225 students in 21 FIGs to as many as 2,000 students in 115 FIGs. U.S. News & World Report regularly lists this model among the best learning communities in the country. Not surprisingly, Tom’s advice to Conner was that he check it out. 

And sure enough, this fall, Conner Schmid is continuing another MU family legacy. He joined an engineering FIG.

Published by the Division of Student Affairs, 211 Jesse Hall, Columbia, MO 65211 | Phone: 573-882-6776 | Fax: 573-882-0158 | E-mail:

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Last updated: Aug. 30, 2017