Education - Page 2 - Helping students succeed

- Page 2
Helping students succeed
Programs aim to foster success in and out of the classroom

By Gregory J. Alexander, Contributing Writer

College students lean on many different people for support during what can be a stressful and challenging time – parents, friends, siblings, college counselors and roommates, to name a few. However, the onus is not solely on the student; colleges and universities are taking proactive approaches to reach out to students and help facilitate success in and out of the classroom.

At the Community College of Baltimore County (CCBC), an innovative program called Male Student Success aims to mentor men of color at CCBC to help foster leadership development and academic success.“The program’s goals are to develop a social network with deep engagement and to guide themin their educational journey,” says Mark Williams, Ph.D., business studies coordinator and project director of the Male Student Success Initiative at CCBC. “We provide an orientation course that is culturally relevant to who they are, discuss what challenges men of color may face in educational settings and in the world, and pair the students with a man of color here at CCBC to serve as a mentor.” Williams adds that the initiative also encourages these students to later serve as a mentor to younger students.

“The primary focus is leadership development. We want these students to have a sense of belonging, all the way through commencement. We want them to know that they are supported from Day One,” adds Monica Walker, Ed.D., dean, developmental education and special academic programs at CCBC.

To encourage participation, Williams and Walker forge relationships with faculty members, advisors and admissions counselors at CCBC to ensure that they are aware of the Male Student Success Initiative. Williams says that he has also developed relationships with area high schools to inform them on the Male Student Success Initiative.

Both Williams and Walker say that CCBC has already seen success in the program. “Students who come through the program tend to have higher GPAs and complete more credits than those students of color who do not participate in the program,” says Williams. “Students who participate in the program also tend to stretch themselves – they are more likely to enroll in the Honors Program, for example, and are more likely to transfer to a four-year school,” says Walker.

At Baltimore City Community College (BCCC), students benefit from the programs provided by Student Support and Wellness Services. Angela Donn, LCSW-C, who works in Student Support and Wellness Services at BCCC, says that the programs are tailored specifically to the “unique student body” at BCCC.

“Our students are very stressed out. Most of them grew up in Baltimore City with exposure to poverty, violence and a lack of quality education,” Donn says. “Most of them are working parents with two or three jobs, while also trying to get their associate degree at BCCC. We hope they can learn from the social workers we have here, as well as their fellow students, and feel better about themselves and to know that we support their dreams.”

Donn says that some of the services provide include confidential weekly counseling sessions. “In these sessions, we look to outline goals, but the student is the boss. We help facilitate ways to make sure they stay on track and achieve their goals.” BCCC also hosts many wellness programs such as yoga and ones focused on mental health.“Many of our students have endured serious trauma, so we hope to reduce stress, tackle depression and help them overcome anxiety. There is a lot of stigma, especially in urban communities, surrounding mental health.”

Donn says that she and her staff go into classrooms to perform workshops. “The English department has been a great partner for us. We’ve had faculty members who reach out to us when some of the journaling submitted by student revealed issues surrounding trauma. We will go into classrooms and give workshops that are active in nature … we encourage dancing or conduct yoga in the classroom. Instead of just lecturing, we want these workshops to be interactive and fun,” she says.

McDaniel College is also helping students succeed by providing competitive, need-based fellowships to help offset costs associated with a summer internship. The fellowships are one component of McDaniel’s Center for Excellence and Opportunity (CEO), led by Executive Director Josh Ambrose. The CEO is focused on experiential learning. The school’s CEO also assists students with studying abroad opportunities, career development, alumni mentorships, and job training and placement.

The summer intern fellowships are need based with priority given to non-paid internships, according to Cristal Fortino, associate director for career development at McDaniel College. The fellowships can help offset costs students may have with an internship that is out of state or even out of the country, such as rent, transportation and other living expenses. “During the application process, students inform us on what their costs will be. If they are awarded the fellowship, they receive two stipends, and there are certain requirements, such as writing an essay on how they intend to bring what they have learned during the internship back into the classroom,” says Fortino.

“Many times a summer internship will take the place of a paid summer job, so it can be a financial sacrifice for these students,” says Ambrose, who adds that the internships do not have to be out of state to qualify.“We decided to focus on internships that occur in the summer, as immersive, intense experiences are easier in the summer. During the school year, students are balancing coursework, commitments on campus, athletics and more.” •

PHOTO DESCRIPTION: Above left: McDaniel College senior Daniel Smith, a triple major in accounting economics, business administration and German, is from Lancaster, Pa., and he received a summer intern fellowship from the Center for Experience & Opportunity at McDaniel College for his summer internship with JP Morgan Chase & Co. in Newark, Del.

A less stressful summer

McDaniel College’s summer intern fellowship took the stress out of trying to figure out how to pay for rent and transportation costs when Daniel Smith, a senior at McDaniel, was awarded a summer internship at JP Morgan Chase in Newark, Del. “I did not have to beg Mom and Dad for money, which is always nice,” says Smith, who is from Lancaster, Pa. Smith, a senior with a triple major in accounting economics, business administration and German, spent 10 weeks at JP Morgan Chase working under the corporate and investment banking division. “I helped working on reconciliations of trades and ensuring balance sheets were correct,” he says.

“It was my first job at a large institution; previously I worked at a small bank. At JP Morgan Chase, I was working with thousands of people, and my Microsoft Excel skills went through the roof,” he says proudly. Smith says that while working there, instead of just doing a task, he was able to understand the “why” behind performing the task, and he has taken that experience back to his leadership position as vice president of McDaniel College’s Honors Program.

Smith credits the tight knit community at McDaniel for why he won the fellowship. “I was studying abroad in Germany, and I got an email from my advisor about the internship at JP Morgan Chase. It was originally sent by a McDaniel alum who was looking for interns. There are networking advantages at a small school,” he says.

The internship proved successful for Smith; he has already landed a full-time job at JP Morgan Chase after he graduates.•