Summer CAP season is upon us!
It is hard to believe that this year marks the 5 year anniversary of the Summer College Achievement Program (CAP), a program that I created during my first year of employment at Eastern Nazarene College. The program has evolved a lot over the last few years, and I am really happy with the direction we are heading. Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been easy! I have experienced my fair share of speed bumps along the way. There are a few things that I would go back and change, but overall, my experience has been really positive. My mistakes have helped me develop a deeper understanding of program development, a skill that I can apply anywhere. There are few lessons worth noting, and I hope that you will indulge me a little.
Lesson #1 – Invest in Infrastructure
As a young administrator, I felt like I had a lot to prove. I was an unseasoned 22 year old with a lot of ambition, but not a lot of wisdom. In February of 2009 I received approval from the President’s Cabinet to move forward and pilot the Summer CAP. I was also warned that the program must be self-sustaining, a variable that might keep my idea from getting off the ground. The pressure to be both financially viable and financially responsible caused me to cut my personnel budget, a decision that ended up being a BIG MISTAKE! Failing to invest in leadership created a divide between the students and leadership team, resulting in student outcomes that didn’t meet my expectations.
Lesson #2 – Break down silos (aka Ask for help!)
It is nearly impossible to build a new program as a solo venture. Make sure to build a team of professionals that can help you address the whole student, ultimately allowing you to focus on the areas in which you are an expert. Don’t try to be everything to everyone, it doesn’t work! If you are like me, don’t be fearful about making more work for your colleagues More often than not, your colleagues will be excited to help you develop your program idea.
Lesson #3 – Don’t make assumptions
Assess everything, and don’t assume that you know everything about the students sitting in front of you. Every student is different, and you are doing them a disservice if you base actions on assumptions. Your impact might be hindered by false assumptions, and nobody wants that.
Lesson #4 – Set objectives and assess progress
This seems like common sense, but it is often easier said than done. Clear objectives drive the mission/vision of your program. Without a clear roadmap, you will spin around in circles without finding any forward momentum.
Lesson #5 – Set high expectations
The students that participate in Summer CAP are required to complete two or more developmental courses, and these students will often face several other barriers as they work towards achieving academic success. Many of the Summer CAP students will have to overcome systemic issues of injustice, and setting high expectations is a great way to show them that they have value. I have heard countless stories of high school counselors telling my students that they will amount to nothing, and college is not an option for them. This really ticks me off! Can I say that? Well, I just did. I can’t say it enough, set high expectations. More often than not, your students will meet, if not exceed them.
I have probably learned more from my Summer CAP experience than most of my students. I love my students, and I am grateful that I have the opportunity to work with them during the summer to help them transition to the rigors of college coursework.
We start the 2013 program in a few weeks, and I think this is going to be the best year yet. Fingers crossed!!!
Do you offer any programs like this on your campus? I’d love to hear your story, and how the program came into existence.