The student mentoring program formerly known as January Academy has a new “spring” in its step
Starting from scratch, the Office of Academic Support Services at Reed, in collaboration with staff formerly involved in the now defunct January Academy, has launched a new opportunity for first-year and transfer students this Spring to receive advice from professors and other faculty at Reed.
The new weekly seminar, which is scheduled to last for eight weeks in total, has a goal of offering first-year and transfer students a more comprehensive look at what constitutes student success at Reed. The first meeting, which was held on Wednesday, January 30 in Psych 102/103, saw professors and other Reed faculty engaging with students in panels and conference-style discussions to shed light on available resources as well as strategies and practices to promote positive habit integration into the daily lives of student attendees.
Primarily arranged to be more accessible to students, Spring Symposium also aims to address common academic obstacles students face while providing tips for improving the general well-being of first-year students in their experience at Reed. David Gruber, Assistant Dean for Academic Support Services, gave insight on the transition of January Academy to Spring Symposium, explaining how “January Academy ran for four years, and at the end of four years of that program, we analyzed the outcomes for students … and we realized there was really no significant difference between students that went to January Academy and students that didn’t in terms of graduation, going on leave or not going on leave, and overall academic performance.”
Giving a clearer picture of the seminar’s planning, Gruber added “We [the Spring Symposium committee] thought that the program would be more attractive to students if it was during a semester and didn’t involve coming back from break early … a little more accessible, and a greater equity of access for students who might not be able to afford coming back for January Academy, even though food and housing was paid for, transportation wasn’t.” Gruber assessed the reality of the situation regarding January Academy, offering, “We were also hoping that by making the program something students could do in tandem with their spring courses, they might be able to put in practice more immediately some of the skills and strategies they were learning in the program.”
Hum 110 Chair Margot Minardi, who’s one of the faculty members involved in Spring Symposium and wellspring of advice on paper-writing and class preparation, added to the argument of January Academy’s inaccessibility and drawbacks. “The main shortcoming of January Academy is that it was not clear that the program was attracting the students who would have most benefited from it. Without knowing much about the selection or recruiting process for Spring Symposium, I can’t say much about whether or not its effects on this score will be different.” While the faculty’s uncertainty surrounding the new program’s format is evident, the optimism of other staff involved balances the equation. Reed’s new Quantitative Skills Coordinator Miguel Rodriguez weighed in, “A couple of the goals are to build community. Here at Reed, there’s a lot of feelings of isolation [amongst the student body]. It seems for some students it’s very difficult to create genuine, lasting connections and relationships with people. That’s why we have this new cohort model,” alluding to another feature of the new program, which is the assignment of first-year students to groups made up of other students, professors, and various Reed staff members. Rodriguez clarified the benefits of the new system, saying “Here are seven other students with similar goals and ideas as you.” Rodriguez concluded his thoughts on the new program by tackling a major issue affecting students at Reed, “A couple of the goals are to build community: Here at Reed, there’s a lot of feelings of isolation [amongst the student body]. It seems for some students it’s very difficult to create genuine, lasting connections and relationships with people.”
If anything, Spring Symposium offers wide-eyed first-years the chance to acclimate to the unique community of Reed College. Rodriguez remarked that Spring Symposium is about “showing that there are people here on campus, not just fellow students, but faculty, and staff … who care.”