Conventional wisdom has it that it takes 21 days to cement a new habit.
Organizers of Lehigh’s Summer Scholars Institute are hoping that axiom holds true for the incoming first-year students who will attend the new, three-week program to help them start building the habits that will guarantee their success at Lehigh.
“With this program, we want to do all that we can to help students succeed and maximize their experience here,” said Tyrone Russell, director of the Office of Multicultural Affairs and primary organizer of the new program. “Students who performed at the highest level in high school can struggle with the academic demands and with issues like time management and study skills. We want to help them make that shift, as well as make the kind of connections with academic advocates who can support and assist them throughout their undergraduate experience.”
Working with the Provost’s Office, Russell designed the program to orient new students academically and socially and to promote personal growth and educational achievement. Many of those attending will be first-generation students.
“We want them to build healthy relationships with fellow students and to be aware of and know how to access the resources here on campus,” he said. “The students who will be participating have also shown promise in the areas of leadership and civic engagement, so we certainly want to cultivate those interests as well so that they can be a force for positive change.”
The program will be held from Sunday, June 29, through Friday, July 19, and students will be housed in Taylor House. Since this is the pilot year for the program, no credit will be offered. However, students who participate will receive all first semester books free and no tuition or fees will be charged for the summer program, Russell said.
Students for the new program were recruited through Candidate Day events and Diversity Life (or D Life) weekend held during the Spring 2014 semester. Russell said that his staff also worked closely with the university’s admissions office to help identify candidates who would benefit from the intensive program. More than 80 students applied for spots in the pilot program.
“Our goal,” he said, “is to launch this program with 30 to 35 students during the first year, and then build on that.”
Participating faculty include Jennifer Swann, professor of biological sciences; James Peterson, director of Africana Studies and associate professor of English; and Kashi Johnson, associate professor of Theatre. Fellow contributors to the program include Rita Jones, director of the Women’s Center; Margarida DaGraca, assistant director of diversity recruitment; Susan Szczepanski, associate professor of mathematics; Cynthia Estremera, a doctoral student in English; Allison Gulati, associate dean of students and director of strategic initiatives; Allison Ragon, assistant dean of students for first-year students; Maria Asayag, senior assistant director of diversity initiatives; Beth Guzzo, assistant director of diversity recruitment; Brandon Morris, assistant director of residence life; Provost Pat Farrell and Jennifer Jensen, deputy provost for academic affairs. There will be six student staff members who will serve as mentors, head residents, and tutors, and additional student leaders will be involved, Russell said.
Russell said the response from members of the Lehigh community has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We’ve heard from undergrad and graduate students, Lehigh Valley community members, and other faculty and staff who not only support this initiative, but are also offering hands of assistance,” he said.
That support will be essential, he said, in maintaining momentum for the program. Throughout the academic year, students will continue to attend workshops each month that will be sponsored by different campus offices. The program will also include a variety of experimental enrichment activities such as tutoring, academic coaching, leadership retreats and internships.
“Ideally,” Russell said, “students who come through this first year can be an inspiration and source of support for those who follow in their path.”