A first-year program was developed and piloted at a private university in the New England region of the United States, with the goal of supporting and allocating resources to eligible African-American and Hispanic male students in achieving academic excellence at the institution. During this time, the demographics of the institution included between 10% and 20% self-identified African American students, and between 10% and 20% self-identified Hispanic students. Architecture, engineering, and technology students make up between 10 and 30% of the entering first year students. Students who successfully completed applications for the described first-year program, and who went on to be accepted, would be a part of a cohort of students who met with a lead instructor weekly, with the program being run as a 1-credit course with assignments, and responsibilities, and having the added benefit of having additional instructors from the student life side who could help facilitate additional activities, and plug students in to the student life aspects of college life. As part of the program, activities such as mentoring, and leadership training are used to assist in the transition process, as students adjust to college, identify and work toward goals, and endeavor to achieve academic excellence. The present paper will describe some of the programming and assignments of this pilot program, and discuss some of the related strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and successes. The program supports African-American and Hispanic male students during the fall semester of their first year, who have the potential for great success at the institution. Programming was developed with the intention of helping students maximize their academic skills; contribute to and benefit from productive university communities; offer best practices that can help students better navigate through their four years, and work individually and collectively to further promote the goals of the program. Since this wasn’t a pre-college overnight kind of experience, and instead was implemented as a 1-credit course, the paper will detail the implementation of select activities on a weekly, monthly and overall basis. Student feedback of the semester-long experience will be provided through surveys as appropriate. The nature of the program as an extra course, which could count for credit and a grade, as appropriate, and with vigorous focus not only on demonstration of learning outcomes related to study skills, professional development, and more, but also including separate incentivized challenges, and student life support, may provide a model for a wide range of retention and success programs. These types of programs may be implemented for a diverse range of affinity groups, and cohorts of students in general. The impact on engineering students may also be immense, in affecting the same campus wide goals of increased retention and success of students, beginning from early on in their college careers.
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