My Aggie Experience
How Texas A&M University's Aggie Experience Fund is providing students with life-changing opportunities through Aggieland’s “other education.”
- Photography by Jeff Wilson
- Oct. 19, 20227 min read
The student experience at Texas A&M University is unlike any other. From plunging into campus traditions at Fish Camp and serving the community through The Big Event to growing leadership skills in student organizations, the university’s numerous extracurricular opportunities shape an Aggie’s life throughout their college career and beyond. However, for students who cannot afford the extra participation fees, the impact of Texas A&M’s famous “other education” remains just out of reach. The new Aggie Experience Fund aims to change that.
Supported by endowments from Anne ’90 and Mike Hachtman ’86 and Erika ’14 and Chris Pesek ’97, the fund provides up to $250 or 50% of the cost to participate in recognized student organizations or programs. “We want all of our students to have a fulfilling and rewarding Aggie experience, and student organizations are a big part of that experience,” said Brigadier General Joe E. Ramirez Jr. '79, USA (Ret.), vice president for student affairs. “We are grateful for the generosity of the many donors who have made the Aggie Experience Fund possible, allowing our students the opportunity to participate in student organizations and activities they will remember for a lifetime.”
Since the fund began in spring 2022, more than 375 students have experienced the joy of pursuing their passions and forming friendships through extracurriculars free of financial worry. Meet three special Aggies and hear how this support enabled them to engage in new opportunities as they answer the question: What does your Aggie experience mean to you?
Empowerment for Success
Tremarrion Wheeler ’25
“Texas A&M was a big culture change for me. I’m a first-generation college student and went to a small school my entire life, so experiencing a huge, diverse school like Texas A&M was very different. There are a lot of opportunities, and networking here is outstanding, so I knew it was the place for me. But it was a little hard at first to connect with the Black population on campus.
I joined an organization called Excellence uniting Culture, Education and Leadership, which helps Black students find a home at Texas A&M. A few members told me about the Southwestern Black Student Leadership Conference (SBSLC). They said students from across the nation come to hear the keynote speakers, network and develop leadership skills, so I thought it would be a cool opportunity to meet and learn from Black students from other schools.
The Aggie Experience Fund covered the cost for me to attend. I’m thankful for that because, coming from a low-income family, finances have always been hard. Knowing there are people out there who care so much about future generations of Aggies that they’re willing to give their own money back to the university shows that the Aggie Spirit never dies.
Even though the conference was on Zoom, it was still amazing. Something that stood out to me was the family aspect. These students weren’t just coming and then leaving. They were forming genuine friendships and having real conversations, and it felt like a family reunion. I learned so many lessons that stuck with me and encouraged me to grow. Seeing people from different backgrounds striving to become their better selves inspired me to constantly improve myself.
I also have friends on the SBSLC executive board, and I was proud of the time and dedication they spent to make this the best conference possible. Thanks to the Aggie Experience Fund, the conference made a huge impact on my life and the person I’m continuing to grow into, and I hope to join the SBSLC board in the future to take part in that impact.”
Yashaswini Paleru ’24
“I chose Texas A&M to pursue my dream of higher studies and focus on all-around development rather than just academics. I’m an international student from Bangalore, India, and have previous work experience in the energy industry. I resolved to participate in as many extracurricular activities as possible to improve my personality and branch out during my time at Texas A&M.
There are so many opportunities here to engage in whatever you like. I joined four organizations: Engineers Serving the Community (ESC), TAMU RoboMasters, the Student Engineers’ Council and Texas A&M’s American Institute of Chemical Engineers chapter, but the fees worried me. Then I found the Aggie Experience Fund through an email and applied for it to help with the costs.
My favorite organization is ESC because it focuses on sustainability. We’ve constructed a bridge at the Sam Houston National Forest along with other volunteers, and we’ve received an Aggie Green Fund grant to build a rainwater-harvesting system for the Howdy Farm, a student-run farming club. Participating in the organization has been a great experience while providing a break from my studies and helping me give back to society.
I didn’t contribute as much to RoboMasters my first semester, but I’m more involved now on the computer vision subteam, which helps the bots learn and track targets. Robotics really interests me, and it’s been great seeing how to build and program the robots for competitions.
My time at Texas A&M has been a great learning experience, and I love the traditions and the Aggie culture. I’m grateful to the former students who have given to the Aggie Experience Fund, ensuring everyone has a fair chance to make friends and fond memories in student organizations like they did.”
Anna Trickey ’22
“I met my first Aggie at a summer camp in East Texas. I was attending Kansas State University then, and while I liked my school, I fell in love with everything Aggies stood for and wanted to be more like them. And what better way to do that, I thought, than become an Aggie? So, I moved to Texas in 2019 and transferred to Texas A&M in fall 2020. Coming to campus, I felt like I had made it. I was bursting at the seams with joy to finally be where I needed to.
When I got here, I attended T-Camp, the orientation camp for transfer students hosted by Aggie Transition Camps (ATC). Seeing even the rowdiest people at camp get pensive about Texas A&M’s traditions showed me that there is a regard for the school that supersedes ego or persona. As someone who had never been very involved in school spirit, that reverence really inspired me to become a red ass Aggie and not just a two-percenter.
I’m a financially independent student and have worked my way through college, but I didn’t want to miss out on the Aggie experience by not being able to afford extra things. I knew I wanted to stay involved with ATC, so I created a payment plan to be a camp counselor for 2021 T-Camp. I didn’t think I could afford it again for the spring 2022 Howdy Camp, but then a friend on ATC’s director staff told me about the Aggie Experience Fund. It was so freeing to have that assistance to continue being a counselor.
I loved both my experiences as a counselor. I’ve made bonds for life with everyone who invested in the camp. We have so many sentimental videos and pictures together and others that evoke laughter for hours. I’ll never forget what I did with everyone to make those camps happen and contribute to the Aggie Spirit in our own way. You get out what you put into your time at Texas A&M, and it was important for me to tell that to the students in my camp discussion groups. If you put something in, you’ll see the magic that waits for you here.”