Posted on Thursday, August 20, 2009
A group of dedicated students gave up part of their summer to instead hit the books at the Summer Institute, a five-week, intensive, on-campus academic program which incorporates courses in math, social sciences, writing, and study skills for incoming first-years.
"The program allows students to benefit from college-level courses for credit, developing and enhancing their skill sets and identifying areas in which they could improve," said Director of Academic Opportunity Programs/HEOP Jim Burruto.
"Students become close friends quickly, which makes the transition from high school to college a lot smoother," added Assistant Director of Intercultural Affairs Edith Wormley. "They get familiar with campus, professors, administration, enrichment offices, and each other - it creates their own learning community."
This sense of camaraderie was apparent during their writing course, taught this year by Assistant Professor of English Anna Creadick, especially as the students engaged in peer-editing. Reading each others' papers out loud, the enthusiastic writers provided each other with constructive criticism and encouragement. Other activities include in-class writing assignments to provide strategies and skills for every stage of writing, from getting started to avoiding plagiarism; discussion of the graphic novel "Maus" as a way to prepare for their historical research paper; and trips to the library to hone their research skills. Students were also introduced to Creadick's "slice and dice" method which entails highlighting and physically cutting up a paper to provide visual models for improving organization.
Though the work is challenging, the process of learning and improvement is a "progressive" one, reflected Patrice Thomas '13, a Summer Institute student. Classmate Luke Lyons '13 confessed, "I hated writing papers. But now I feel prepared for the fall semester."
Even students who enjoyed writing before taking part in the program have gleaned a great deal of knowledge. "I've always had problems starting papers," explained Deseray Cargill '13, whose "writer's block" made completing a paper an arduous task. "Now I understand that you don't have to write the perfect essay on your first try. I've learned how to draft and to revise."
"The course reinforced everything I've learned about writing," echoed Ishimabet Bryce. "Now I can't wait to start my classes."
Integral to their progress is daily work with three Writing Colleagues: Alicia Gregory '09, Michele Viterise '09, and Felix Rodriguez '11. In addition to attending class with students and providing ongoing support with the writing process, Writing Colleagues foster relationships with the students outside the classroom, eating meals with them in Saga and providing mentorship.
"It's rewarding to work with them through the writing process. I've never seen this much enthusiasm from a group of students," said Gregory.
"This is one of the most gratifying teaching experiences I've ever had," reiterated Creadick. "These students work hard, are ambitious, have tons of potential, and are really interesting people."
The Summer Institute, formerly known as the Summer Academic Opportunity Program (SAOP), is a requirement mandated by the New York State Department of Education. Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) students, many coming from underserved schools, take part in the program in order to prepare for college academics and life.
Rodriguez, a graduate of the Summer Institute, returned to Geneva for his second summer as a writing colleague for the program. A media and society major with a minor in writing and rhetoric, he also works at Saga and plays intramural basketball.
Gregory graduated with a double major in English and Africana studies and a minor in writing and rhetoric. She was a writing colleague and editor for Thel and the Aleph, studied abroad in South Africa, and graduated magna cum laude with Honors. She hopes to pursue a career in social justice, working with non-profit organizations in Washington, D.C.
A double major in history and political science with a minor in the Writing Colleagues Program, Viterise graduated cum laude, took part in Koshare and Americans for Informed Democracy, and studied abroad in Bath, England. Viterise will be teaching English in Beijing this coming year, and credits her experience with the Summer Institute for preparing her to teach abroad.
Creadick spent last semester in Scotland on a research leave. Her book, "Perfectly Average: the Pursuit of Normality in Post-War America," will be available next year through University of Massachusetts Press. She holds her B.S. in English and Education from Appalachian State University, a master's in American studies from Boston College, and a Ph.D. in English and American studies from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.