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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Program provides academic support

Tuesday, February 12, 2008  
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By Katy King

A mentoring program on campus is providing academic support to freshmen who received low ACT/SAT scores.

The Bridge Program is dedicated to easing the transition from high school study habits to the study habits and routines necessary to succeed in college.

Directed by Virginia Smith, the program was established in the fall of 2006 when a faculty committee decided to raise the admission requirements for the university.

"The faculty wanted to make sure students coming in would have the support necessary to succeed," Smith said.

Students who have received an ACT score of 15 or less are required to enter the program. Smith said there could be a number of reasons a student scores low on the test.

"One [reason] could be that they come from an unprepared background, or maybe their school did not offer a lot of college prep courses," Smith said. "Maybe they are just not a good test taker."

Unproductive high school careers can leave holes in a student's ability to learn. Therefore, the Bridge Program remains an important part of some freshmen's curriculum.

"The Bridge Program tries to fill in those holes and level the playing field so that they have a better shot at being successful," Smith said. "The participants in the program have the same amount of potential as anyone else."

The program is expected to have an exponential increase in the number of participants for the fall of 2009 because of a two point increase in the ACT score requirement.

"We went from 13 [participants] in the fall of 2006 to 38 [participants] in the fall of 2007 with no increase in the ACT benchmark," Smith said.

The semester-long program consists of enrollment in a three hour course, Strategies for Personal and Professional Success and tutoring for at least two hours a week.

One hour of tutoring is with an Oklahoma Christian University student, and the other hour is spent with the Director of School of Engineering Camey Johnson and Adjunct Instructor of Math Lindsay Prugh, working on assignments for an Intermediate Algebra course.

Students graduate from the program after the first semester. The class is still offered in the spring for students who have been put on academic probation.

The mentors are chosen with the help of Director of Teacher Education Robyn Miller, who recommends students based on their abilities.

"Dr. Miller helps me come up with names of students who are talented at working with students, so that's my first line," Smith said. "If they come with a recommendation from Dr. Miller, then that is usually pretty important to me."

Not only is the Bridge Program helpful to the students enrolled, but it also prepares the mentors for their future careers. Senior Shauna McKinnon has been a Bridge Program mentor since the fall of 2007. She feels her involvement is good practice.

"While this is quite different from teaching, I feel that it is giving me important experiences with students one-on-one which will definitely be helpful in the classroom," McKinnon said.

Although this job seems to be especially important in the training of teachers, any career-seeking student would benefit from mentoring.

Freshman Amanda Jordan saw a job opening for the Bridge Program on the university student job listing and took it.

"Although I don't plan to pursue a career in teaching, I feel this experience has helped me learn to be patient, to have better people skills and to build relationships," Jordan said. "[This will] ultimately prepare me for the workforce and life."

The program is designed not only to help students with their academic needs, but also to assist them in improving skills such as time management, organization and study habits.

Like all programs, student success depends on hard work and participation.

"I do believe that this is a beneficial program.  I think the more that students put into it, the more that they will receive from it," McKinnon said. "My most successful students have been those that are devoted, self-motivated and came to our sessions prepared to work hard."

Smith has been overwhelmed with the success of the program in its first two years.

"The results have been phenomenal. We ended up with 35 [participants] in the program who made it pass the withdrawal date," Smith said.  "We had three [participants] who made 4.0s."

Of the 35 fall participants in 2007, 25 returned to the university for the spring semester.

"These are excellent numbers and are because of the hard work of the students, their peer mentors, their math advisory instructors and their professors," Smith said.  

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