KOKOMO, Ind. — Bekha Wampner no longer worries about the start of her college career.
Wampner, from Tipton, feels better prepared to succeed in her classes and navigate the Indiana University Kokomo campus, after attending its first-ever summer bridge program.
“It’s eased my fears,” she said. “I’m glad I came. I’ve learned a lot about all the ins and outs and stuff you probably wouldn’t know as a freshman just coming in. We met with faculty and talked about what they expect from us in the classroom, so there is a little less of the unknown involved.”
Research shows that a key factor in degree completion is the quality and success of a student’s first-year experience, and the level of support received. With the bridge program, IU Kokomo helps first-time students make a successful transition from high school to the more challenging university environment, with a goal of increasing academic success and keeping them on track to earn a degree.
Instructors Minda Douglas, assistant professor of fine arts, and Karla Stouse, lecturer in English, teach academic skills needed to make the transition from high school to college, and introduce the 24 students to the campus and resources available to them. It is also a chance to make friends with classmates before the fall semester begins, on August 25. Students each earned one college credit for completing the free program.
“As we talk about study skills and how college differs from high school, we hope to show these students that they are capable of creating their own success,” Stouse said. “We’re helping them gain knowledge about the campus and procedures, but also helping them gain confidence about being an IU Kokomo student. We want them to develop a sense of belonging to our campus community, and encourage them to take leadership roles in it.”
Classes met for seven hours daily over a two week period, and include a campus tour, meetings with administrators, a field trip to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and lessons in goal setting, time management, class formats, international travel opportunities, career planning, and how to get involved on campus.
The campus had hosted a bridge program in the 1990s, for at-risk students. This program targeted a different audience, Stouse said.
“We’re focused on students who take the initiative to get a head start on college,” she said. “Most of the participants are strong students with clear academic goals and lots of previous academic success. We have IU Kokomo athletes, scholarship winners, and honor society members in our group.”
For Indianapolis resident Stephen Calhoun, the study skills he gained, including learning how to take good notes, were the best part. He also found out there is a writing center where he can find help if he needs it.
“I’ve learned a lot of useful information, more than you get at orientation,” he said. “This is going to help me adjust and be ready to do my best in my classes. It’s been fun and educational.”
As a graduate of a small high school, Logansport resident Kamrin Buell appreciated the campus tour.
“Coming from Pioneer High School, this campus is big to me,” he said. “It’s cool to know where things are, and what it is like to go from high school to college.”
Deni Harris said the bridge program offered a chance to make friends before classes start.
“I’m kind of shy, and this was a step out of my comfort zone,” the Kokomo resident said. “Now I know where to get help if I need it, and that it is OK to ask. I feel more comfortable now coming back when classes actually start.”
Reid Clingenpeel, from Flora, also feels better knowing he has friends at IU Kokomo.
“It’s invaluable having someone you already know on campus on the first day,” he said. “I’m more comfortable with the campus and where things are now.”
Meeting faculty was important to Mary Elmasary, who is from Kokomo.
“I’m less intimidated by the idea of going to college classes, because I know the faculty members are friendly, and want me to do well,” she said. “We learned about campus organizations, too, and I’m excited to participate in some clubs.”
Rachel Echelbarger, Greentown gained reassurance that people on campus want to help her succeed in her nursing studies.
“Now I know what resources are available to be to be successful,” she said. “It’s given me a lot of information I am sure I will use. I feel there are really great people here who want to help us.”
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.