A collaborative program geared toward student success in their first year of college will be introduced on campus this June.
Thirty students have been accepted into the Multicultural Emerging Scholars Summer Bridge and Living Learning Community Program that will start Monday, June 29. The program is designed to aid the transition from high school to college and promote academic excellence in college-level courses for first-year students.
The entering freshmen, who have been admitted into The University of Toledo’s colleges of Languages, Literature and Social Sciences or Natural Sciences and Mathematics, will receive an $8,000 scholarship to cover tuition, books, housing and meals for the six weeks of summer class, and enrollment for the Emerging Scholars Living Learning Community during the academic year.
“We’ve conducted a qualitative study where students have told us, ‘I thought I was prepared in high school, but I got here and realized I wasn’t,’” said Dr. Willie McKether, associate dean of social sciences and associate professor of anthropology. “We also learned from the study that some students, male students in particular, often times have trouble asking for help. We need to help students understand that asking for help is not a sign of weakness in a college environment.”
With the goal of promoting academic excellence and college readiness, the program will allow students to form a community of support to help them during their academic journey — starting with their own peers in a living learning community, a group of students who share similar academic goals and attitudes. There have been many studies reflecting the benefits of living learning communities, said Dr. Barbara Schneider, senior associate dean of humanities and associate professor of English.
McKether, who helped run one of the prior Multicultural Living Learning Communities on campus, said while students living in a focused community certainly helps them achieve academically, the system still has room to improve. Many of the first-year students spend much of their first semester getting acclimated to college, which McKether said is difficult when so many things are happening around them. It’s for this reason the program has the summer bridge component.
“The idea of linking this to a summer bridge program is so that they come back in the fall and now they’re ready to hit the ground running,” he said.
“It’s like if you enter a foot race and you decide to walk until you get warmed up; you start running at mile five and you’ve already lost,” Schneider added.
Each student will be enrolled in a series of classes during the six-week summer program: Composition I, Cultural Anthropology, Learning to Serve and Math Camp. These courses fulfill requirements that all UT students have, but also provide a variety that each student can benefit from.
In addition to becoming better students, the program pushes the freshmen to become socially cognizant leaders in their community. Through the Learning to Serve class and Learning to Lead course they will take in the fall, students will be required to complete a service project with an organization in the Toledo community.
“What we hope is that in addition to strengthening students and their competitiveness, we will also create future mentors who will see a social responsibility to reach back and encourage more students to pursue careers in STEM areas,” said Dr. Anthony Quinn, assistant dean in the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, and professor of biology.
Students also will take a variety of trips during the summer session to help enhance their understanding and appreciation of their own culture and the Toledo community. These will include visits to the Holocaust Memorial Center, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Lake Erie Center and Toledo City Council.
According to UT Director of Undergraduate Admission William Pierce, the first- to second-year retention rate at the University has steadily been improving the past few years and with programs like this, coupled with the continued recruitment of more well-prepared students, those numbers will hopefully continue moving in a positive direction.
“You’re never really content with retention. UT is continually working to not only attract more students that are prepared for college, but is also investing resources designed to ensure students are successful at UT from their first day on campus through graduation.
The success coach initiative and now the Multicultural Emerging Scholars Program are great examples of this,” Pierce said.
“Are we happy with the progress we’ve made the past couple years? Absolutely. But until you are retaining 100 percent of the students that enroll, there is always work to be done,” Pierce said.
For more information on the Multicultural Emerging Scholars Summer Bridge and Living Learning Community Program, contact McKether at Willie.Mckether@utoledo.edu.