Just over a month into his college career, Solomon L. Myers ’22 felt like he had a pretty good grip on things.
L. Myers, who is from Hershey, had already met with the study abroad office and was working on obtaining an Iacocca internship. He was applying to the Nakatani RIES: Research & International Experiences for Students. He was informed of Passport to Success, a year-long mentorship program that includes obtaining a passport and applying for a study abroad experience in the summer.
L. Myers even had his financial aid in order and next year’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) form was nearly completed.
But if it wasn’t for LUSSI (Lehigh University Student Scholars Institute), he says, he may never figured it all out. At the very least, it would have taken him longer to pull everything together.
As L. Myers thought about entering college, he had pictured himself studying abroad. Because of LUSSI, he says, he’s making it a reality. He is even now pursuing an internship on his own in Sweden.
“This ambition, I’ve had myself, but I think through LUSSI I was able to actually channel it into a physical goal,” L. Myers says.
LUSSI, a three-week program in July that, this year, included 37 students already accepted to Lehigh from 11 different states, helps first-generation college students, low-income students or a combination of both smooth the transition from high school to higher education. The summer days are filled with meetings and classes as students take English, calculus or pre-calculus, chemistry or economics and theater with assignments and exams, although they don’t count for credit.
Support for students, however, doesn’t end when the fall semester commences. Students who joined LUSSI over the summer meet with faculty throughout their first year and use resources they learned about during the program their entire Lehigh career. Tutoring, leadership retreats and a membership program are all available.
The experience, which took place from July 7-27, wasn’t limited to classes, with students participating in professional development seminars ranging from career exploration to mental and physical health. Students were also taken, as a group, to explore South Side Bethlehem and were able to participate in a campus scavenger hunt that aided them in finding offices around campus, along with learning what those offices have to offer.
With over 120 LUSSI students spread across the three undergraduate classes, according to the Office of International Affairs’ website, the program is making an impact, and students like Vanessa Singh ‘22, believe it is helping improve the comfort level of students, especially as they navigate their initial semester at Lehigh.
Singh, of Queens, New York, applied for LUSSI as soon as she found out about the program from Jennifer Castro, associate director, director of diversity recruitment. One of Singh’s biggest fears prior to coming to Lehigh was not knowing anyone. Becoming acquainted with other students like herself was initially the most attractive part of LUSSI. She wanted to meet people and familiarize herself to the campus before credited classes began in August.
Singh said she stressed about classwork and financial aid over the summer, but thanks to LUSSI, those fears evaporated. During LUSSI, there were two days where Singh was able to meet with a financial aid counselor. It was much easier, she said, than trying to get everything straight over the phone. Filling out any financial forms give her anxiety, but now she knows she can always turn to her counselor for help.
Taking economics over the summer was soothing for Singh as well. She took the class for credit in the fall semester and said she did much better than over the summer because she had a preview of the class and knew the professor’s standards.
“It’s everything that I expected because LUSSI has prepared me for it,” Singh says. “It had been a little stressful studying for midterms, but I learned how to study during LUSSI. In high school I had trouble with studying, I’d be all over the place. But now I know where all the libraries are, I know where all the quiet rooms are. I study with friends from LUSSI. Even the TA’s [teaching assistant], I can go to them for help.”
Benjamin Santos ’22, of South Bronx, New York, wasn’t sold on applying to join LUSSI when he received an email about the program from Castro. He needed to work over the summer to make sure he had enough money for books and a computer, and he wasn’t sure if he could afford to give up valuable hours at his summer job before starting at Lehigh. But before dismissing the idea, Santos contacted the LUSSI staff and explained his situation. The LUSSI staff assured him they would be able to help if there were any issues. That was enough for Santos to eventually apply to join LUSSI and he’s glad he did. Among what has been most beneficial for Santos is the confidence he’s been given to succeed.
“When I first came to LUSSI, I was super excited to move into college so I wasn’t nervous, but I think definitely after coming to LUSSI, I was even more excited to come back in August because I had already seen what the classes were like, and I knew that I was capable of doing the work,” Santos says.
Santos says he also liked that LUSSI gave him the opportunity to experience college on a much smaller scale before attending with the full student body.
But the students agreed learning how to manage time in college may have been the most important lesson learned.
“They told us about time management, and then I guess we had to learn on our own how to manage our time,” Singh says. “There were nights [when] I didn’t even sleep because in the afternoon I would come home and not do my work and I would have to do it in the nighttime. I learned that lesson. I should have listened to [the LUSSI staff], but I learned it on my own as well.”
Another benefit was the family environment created among such a diverse group of students. Santos feels LUSSI made him feel welcome at Lehigh and L. Myers echoed that sentiment, saying he knew he was never alone. Singh agreed.
“I felt 110 percent better,” Singh says. “I didn’t even stress about coming to Lehigh because I knew I would have over 30 friends.”
That family attitude has carried over into the school year as Singh says she lives with a few students she met from LUSSI. She also said many of the students from this year’s program joined the F1RST club, for first-generation college students, and meet every other week. A number also joined Passport to Success, as L. Myers did, seeing each other another two times per month.