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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Departments provide help for seamless transition from high school

Transitioning from high school to college challenges students to be independent and social as they balance intensive course requirements and a life outside academics. Academic Success and Achievement aids the transition process by overseeing a group of programs, including New Start and Prodigy, that assist students in their academic success and retention at the UA, according to their website.

New Start is a bridge program that allows incoming freshman to obtain college credit the summer before their first semester in college, while Prodigy is a mentoring program where students meet with a peer adviser bi-weekly their freshman year. The program also has weekly workshops for first-year students as well as social events to help students make connections on campus.

“I think it’s just really fantastic to see the students come through and to see how much they grow, how much they develop,” said Mary Frances Kuper, director of New Start and Prodigy.

Students who are first-generation, low income or have a disability qualify for Student Support Services, a federally funded TRiO program, while they work to obtain their bachelor’s degree. Like Prodigy, TRiO students meet with a peer adviser and participate in workshops, as well as cultural and social events.

While Prodigy is a program for first year students, most TRiO students remain in the program for their undergraduate career. As TRiO students advance in college, they meet with their adviser less often and the workshops focus less on transitioning and the students’ specific situations and more on their college career, graduate school, the workforce and life after college.

“I think the goal is that by the time they get to that stage (senior year), they’re connecting with faculty and have internship opportunities,” said Christine Salvesen, director of Academic Success and Achievement.

TRiO students also see a writing and math skills coach their first year for tutoring, which is mandatory due to statistics suggesting that students who are low-income or first-generation are less likely to go to tutoring, according to Michelle McKelvey, director of TRiO at the UA. Student Affairs Outreach and Early Alert is a program that reaches out to freshmen who live off-campus.

The program hires 15 outreach facilitators to help a group of about 100 students find resources and make connections within the school. The program also has office hours to give students the opportunity to meet their facilitator in-person.

“Our students who are living off campus … they sometimes miss out on some of those opportunities (that freshmen who live in residence halls have),” said Jennifer Ludwig, student affairs outreach assistant director. “And it can also be more of a challenge for them to feel a sense of community here on campus.”

One of the program’s goals is that students who live off-campus are as well informed as those who live in residence halls about events happening on campus, or resources for students on campus, Ludwig said. The program and its facilitators ensure that students get the same information as those who live in the dorms, she added.

Outreach facilitators send out a weekly newsletter informing students about events and resources on campus. They also write blogs so that off-campus students can know what it’s like to go to tutoring or talk to a professor or go to some of the events outlined in the newsletters.

“Talking to a professor … I know can be very scary the first time you do it,” Ludwig said. “But it’s actually much easier than you think and most people don’t die afterwards.”

Student Affairs Outreach and Early Alert also does course-based outreach for larger freshman classes. They send emails to students checking in with them and offer to help with resources or other problems in order to ensure that student keeps their grades up in those classes.

“Sometimes it’s not that you failed the test, it’s that something’s going on at home and you need to deal with that before you can focus on your academics,” Ludwig said.

According to Salveson, Prodigy has a retention rate of 83 to 86 percent, compared to the 77 percent first-year retention rate of the university as a whole.

“It’s a great place to be … It’s a really welcoming environment,” Garcia said. “It only motivates you to work harder every time … the help is always there.”

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