New program provides academic and social engagement opportunities

Comprehensive Studies Program is funded through the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity
A student mentors other students in their first-year seminar class.

Student mentor Gabrielle Samaniego, left, assists students in the Comprehensive Studies Program at Penn State Schuylkill to help with their transition to life in college.

Credit: Samantha L. Bower

SCHUYLKILL HAVEN, Pa. — An exciting new program that launched this fall at Penn State Schuylkill has been full of opportunities for first-year students to engage and connect, both academically and socially, with the campus and surrounding communities. The Comprehensive Studies Program (CSP) is a program that will be funded for one year through the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity at Penn State.

The goal of the program is to ensure that students with academic and financial challenges are given the additional support they need to be successful their first year. The activities of the program are meant to provide academic support and a social network to assist with retention and degree completion.

The program is by invitation only, and there are a limited number of seats. A faculty mentor is assigned who meets with the students twice per week as their first-year seminar course. This year’s faculty mentor is Ron Kelly, instructor in administration of justice. “The Comprehensive Studies Program at Schuylkill is designed to help students be successful,” said Kelly. “My focus as the faculty mentor is to help guide the students in any way possible to ensure a successful academic journey.”

The activities that have been scheduled for the fall semester began with Welcome Weekend and a meet and greet trip to Seton Manor, a skilled nursing and rehabilitation services facility. The students also performed community service while they were there by planting flowers and shrubs. They have been very active with community service projects, such as cleaning up a section of the Bartram Trail along the Schuylkill River Trail and on the grounds outside the Schuylkill County courthouse. There will be trips once a month to assist with social engagement and becoming connected with the community. They attended Borough Day in Schuylkill Haven and there are plans to go to the Elysburg haunted house, Hershey Park and Christmas Village.

Academic activities will include regularly scheduled workshops over the common hour. These short-seminars, intended to provided them with skills to be successful in their classes, include topics such as: time management; note taking; book reading; computer skills; and coping skills. Extra tutoring support geared toward their class schedule is also provided throughout the semester.

Although there will not be a scheduled first-year seminar class in the spring semester for these students, Kelly will continue to maintain contact with them through continued scheduled activities.

An additional component of the program is the assignment of a student mentor. Their role is to also help guide the new students, and it’s thought that having a student mentor can help first-year students become more relaxed and comfortable with their new surroundings. Gabrielle Samaniego, an administration of justice major from Merced, California, is this year’s student mentor. “I believe it’s important to help someone else get on the right track,” said Samaniego. “It’s comforting to not feel alone in the process of adjusting to new situations and college life.”

There are 11 students currently enrolled in the CSP program. “It’s our goal see the students excel in their classes, within the community, and to see all 11 of them back for their sophomore year,” said Kelly.