Campus News

New Approaches project grants making an impact

About 100 students across South Georgia have participated in workshops at the Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic and Investigational Laboratory.

Projects funded through the first round of the New Approaches to Diversity and Inclusion grant program already have made a difference for students in Georgia.

“The projects funded through the New Approaches to Diversity and Inclusion grant program continue to show the progress the University of Georgia is making in regard to recruiting and retaining our underserved, underrepresented and first-generation students,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “This work is just part of our commitment to advancing that important goal, and the impact can be felt across the state.”

A total of $300,000 was awarded in January 2018. The $10,000 to $25,000 grants are used for the development or adoption of new projects across the campus community.

“The New Approaches projects demonstrate the way in which the University of Georgia is building relationships with individuals and communities across Georgia,” said Michelle Cook, vice provost for diversity and inclusion and strategic university initiatives. “These programs move well beyond providing funding to do the work and reflect a commitment to ongoing engagement with communities, schools, families and individual students.”

For Cristy Campbell, Gear Up 4 High School was an eye-opener.

Campbell and her children, Benjamin and Michael, who attend Burney-Harris-Lyons Middle School in Athens, were among the 42 students, plus their parents and middle school teachers, administrators and counselors, who took part in the program, held April 13 at Miller Learning Center. The program, funded by a New Approaches grant, is designed to educate eighth-graders and their parents about the college admissions process.

“One of the most important things I learned through Gear Up 4 High School is that the teachers, parents and students themselves all play a vital role in order for your child to be successful,” Campbell said.

For Gear Up 4 High School, those relationships include working with administrators and counselors at all four Clarke County middle schools.

“It is definitely a joint effort with the Clarke County School District,” said Jonathan Brunson, assistant director of admissions for outreach. “It’s very important because there is a need to educate parents in general about the admissions process.”

Some of the lessons the Gear Up program teach include the availability of scholarship opportunities and the importance of helping students make themselves more competitive for those opportunities.

“Benjamin and Michael were excited and now realize the importance of starting strong and finishing stronger,” Campbell said. “The resources and information provided by the counselors and UGA representatives were priceless and well received. I now feel that we are all better informed and prepared for their future.”

Workshops and internships at the Tifton Veterinary Diagnostic and Investigational Laboratory funded through New Approaches grants also are helping students prepare for the future. In particular, the goal is to grow the number of underrepresented students in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

“It is a nationwide struggle to have access to food animal veterinarians in a rural setting,” said Hemant Naikare, TVDIL director and associate professor of infectious diseases. “This can be addressed to some extent by helping students from the rural regions of South Georgia acquire knowledge through experiential learning and making them aware of several other career opportunities for veterinarians other than veterinary clinical practice.”

The workshops give students across South Georgia an opportunity to learn about veterinary careers. In particular, they have a chance to explore a variety of job options in veterinary public health; food safety; federal government positions with United States Department of Agriculture, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration; research and teaching; and more. A subset of those students will be selected for a two-week internship in various areas of microbiology.

“I learned a lot about the different career paths I could consider,” said Jessica Afangnibo, one of the nearly 100 students who have participated in a workshop.

The RISE Scholars Program, also funded by New Approaches grant funds, is a yearlong program structured to assist in the transition from high school to college for newly committed, underrepresented students in an effort to increase the retention, progress and graduation rates of the program’s participants.

“Incoming students are most likely to find academic success and return for a second year of college if they are connected with college resources. I want my RISE Scholars to be connected with all the different programs, resources and initiatives from their first day,” said Gabriel Jiménez-Fuentes, coordinator of student academic success and achievement in the Office of Institutional Diversity.

To achieve those goals, the 15 RISE Scholars participate in three key elements: a bridge program (Dawg Camp RISE), academic coaching, and peer-to-peer and near-to-peer mentoring.

Dawg Camp RISE not only gives first-year students an opportunity to meet other incoming students, but it also gives them an opportunity to experience what it is like to be a UGA student while exploring and experiencing meaningful leadership, social and academic activities. The program, part of the Center for Leadership & Service in the Division of Student Affairs, allows these students to build fundamental and important friendships and connections with other students, staff, alumni and faculty members.

Dawg Camp recently won Innovative Program of the Year at the National Orientation Directors Association’s Extended Orientation Institute for the Dawg Camp RISE collaboration.

The program is having an impact. RISE Scholars have paid it forward by participating in “Welcome Back UGA,” an event where UGA students greet Clarke County high schoolers on their first day of class. They’ve also applied for leadership positions in student organizations at UGA.

“This year’s RISE Scholars have achieved success all across campus,” said Kaitlyn Shepard, director of Dawg Camp and assistant director of the Center for Leadership & Service. “I will not be surprised to see them become some of UGA’s top campus leaders as they continue with their careers at UGA.”

And for the students involved, the impact of the program takes on personal meaning.

“RISE Scholars has encouraged me to be more outgoing on campus because I know that I have a group of people supporting and encouraging me,” said Micah Wray, a freshman intended marketing major.