Not Just Access, Success:
Serving First-generation Students
With the adoption of our first strategic plan in 2010, SUNY Oneonta pledged to “increase recruitment of underrepresented students” and also to “enhance coordination of initiatives, offices, and programs charged with diversity and inclusion-related work.” In 2015 we implmented our second strategic plan, which includes the objectives to “improve first-year academic engagement” and “increase opportunities for students to be mentored.”
We have steadily increased diversity college-wide over the past seven years. This semester I am pleased and proud to report on what is shaping up to be one of our greatest strides to date: the Access to College Excellence (ACE) program.
Initiated in July of last year, ACE brought 30 first-generation incoming students to campus for Summer Academy, a pre-freshman bridge program. The ACE cohort joined 60 Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) students to complete the rigorous four-week session led by Director of Special Programs Lynda Bassette-Farone and ACE Counselor Ivy Colon.
The Academy drew in department professionals, faculty, administrators, and continuing student leaders who provided ACE students a full slate of study, development, and community-building activities. The results have been spectacular.
- 93% completed the fall semester;
- 46% earned a fall semester GPA of 3.0 or above;
- All but six of the freshmen earned good academic standing; and
- 86% are on pace to graduate in May 2020.
Our first ACE class has blazed a trail that we know many students could follow. The fledgling program’s success has led my Cabinet to recommend seeking state support through the SUNY Performance Improvement Fund to grow it.
Campuses compete for Fund awards, and SUNY gives preference to projects that align with the university’s Completion Agenda, which includes three priorities for the coming year: diversity programs, curriculum development/applied learning, and scaling up programs to multiple campuses. We feel strongly that ACE qualifies for further investment.