January Academy Cancelled, Replaced by Spring Symposium

January Academy has been cancelled this year after four years of existence. The program was created to aid struggling students as early as possible in their time at Reed based on the premise that students often drop out or transfer because of their first year experience. However, following several assessments, the dean’s office decided that the program was not serving the people it was created to serve. In its place, Spring Symposium has been created to perform a similar function during the upcoming spring semester.

January Academy was a program for first year and transfer students that met four days a week throughout the first three weeks of January to help students improve their quantitative, writing, and leadership skills. The quantitative skills program was run by multiple different coordinators throughout the years, and the writing program was run by Professors Pancho Savery and Dustin Simpson. Students could sign up for one or both programs. An effort was made to have Hum 110 and introductory science professors suggest January Academy to students struggling four or eight weeks into their first semester at Reed.

In the writing program, students read one text a week, including short stories by Flannery O’Connor and James Baldwin and letters and speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. The students then met for two hours to discuss the texts and write introductory paragraphs. Throughout the rest of the week, students would take turns projecting their paragraphs on the board for about twenty minutes to have them critiqued. Both Savery and Simpson felt that they could see the quality of students’ writing improve throughout the program.

The administration assessed whether or not January Academy attendees had improved grades in the spring compared to the fall, and if attendees had better graduation rates than non-attendees. Unfortunately, the answer to both questions was no.

It seems, moreover, that the students who may have needed the program most were not signing up. Instead, students who had to stay at Reed during winter break often signed up because it was an opportunity for housing, food, and something to do.

The administration felt a new program during the school year may have a better chance of reaching the target audience, as it would not be restricted to those staying in Portland over break. As such, a memo went out to first year students on Monday, November 26, regarding the new Spring Symposium. This new program aims to “provide students not only with strategies for improved academic performance, but also to increase each student’s sense of belonging in Reed’s intellectual community.”

Students will be organized into small groups, each of which will be paired with a faculty member, a staff member, and a student mentor. These mentors will offer “help with study strategies, goal setting, time management, and use of support resources,” according to the email. This is aimed not only to help improve skills for writing Hum papers, but also for “productive conference participation, test taking, foundational quantitative skills, effective use of office hours and tutoring resources.” It will even help connect students with resources such as the Health and Counseling Center, Center for Life Beyond Reed, and the Library.

The actual meetings will be “small and activity-based,” with the aim of allowing students to develop new and important skills. Proposed meeting topics include “maximizing productivity while minimizing stress,” “the art of the office hour visit,” and “sleep hygiene.”

The symposium will meet on Wednesdays from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. for the first eight weeks of spring semester, and dinner will be provided at each meeting. The program hopes that the “time you invest in the workshop will be repaid in increased effectiveness in meeting your immediate academic goals.” First year and transfer students can apply by December 7.

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