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Summer Academic Institute

Posted: 07/23/2012

Summer at Skidmore College is chock-full of programs, lectures, and shows. In one of the most intensive programs, 44 first-year students from as near as Watervliet, NY, and as far as Slovakia are hard at work in the Summer Academic Institute, a five-week program that helps participants strengthen academic skills, become familiar with campus living, and get to know faculty and staff members who will serve as mentors and resources throughout their college years.

The Summer Academic Institute is coordinated by Skidmore’s Opportunity Program as an early immersion experience to set its academically and economically underserved and underrepresented students on the path to educational success. One of its goals: to guide them through the college process and ultimately to graduation with a strong record of academic and personal achievement.

Now in its 44th year, the summer institute is a key component of Skidmore’s Opportunity Program, which has an enviable record of successful outcomes. About 95 percent of OP students graduate from Skidmore within four years. A significant number complete graduate and professional school, including several who received Fulbright grants for international study.  Skidmore’s OP has become a national model for colleges and universities looking to eliminate the achievement gap among students from different precollege circumstances.

“The program ignites passion, awareness, skills, and knowledge in our students,” says Wazir Jefferson, OP co-director. “We do this by giving students a hand up, not a hand out—by laying the foundation that nurtures their strengths and provides opportunities for them to overcome any challenge.”

The Summer Academic Institute introduces students to challenge early on. Skidmore faculty members teach courses, and live-in residential staff and professional tutors help students through both academic and social transitions. Co-curricular activities on weekends encourage the new students to connect with each other and with other Skidmore faculty and staff so that those relationships will be established before they return to school in the fall. Students join in a community service day, hike in the Adirondack Mountains, go to Shakespeare in the Park, and mingle with OP students at nearby colleges such as RPI, St. Rose and Union.

“We focus on creating a community of scholars,” says OP co-director Rohan Palma. “That’s what drew me to the program and Skidmore initially—the intimate atmosphere, the energy, the success of the program and the ability to make a difference.”

For more about the Opportunity Program at Skidmore, click here.

(Photos by Carrie Fonda and Sue Layden)