Coming from the small, rural town of Sheridan, Wyo., to college life in California, Nick Hill says the two-and-a-half-week residential Summer Institute leadership program definitely helped him navigate the transition. “I got to know 28 other people, made a lot of friends, had a ton of fun and got used to college life.”
Now a junior engineering major and this year’s head Summer Institute mentor, Hill sums up his involvement with the program for three years running: “The main things I took away are confidence and a sense of community.” He said the Summer Institute program gave him the time he needed to get used to the academic load at Mudd while he got used to everything else—from weather to politics to population. “I can’t imagine going through that change if it had not been for Summer Institute,” he said.
Forty first-year students from a range of backgrounds and experiences attended this year's Summer Institute. For two decades, HMC has offered programs to provide selected students with an early introduction to campus life and support to make a smooth transition from high school to college. Led by the Office of Institutional Diversity (OID), the goal of the program, now called Summer Institute, is to help build students’ academic, personal, professional and leadership abilities. In addition, it helps to advance the number of diverse people entering the engineering, science and mathematics fields by encouraging and supporting the matriculation of traditionally underrepresented students, including women, ethnic minorities, students from rural areas and those who are first in their families to attend college. Summer Institute is becoming popular: for the first time in the program's history, the number of applicants exceeded the number of enrollment slots.
Summer Institute students participate in a variety of activities, including academic lectures, lunch with the deans and professors, tours of The Claremont Colleges, downtwon Claremont, and on campus resources. They also head to a nearby mountain resort to participate in a team-building ropes course, and enjoyed a scavenger hunt, game night and trip to Los Angeles.
The program promotes both personal and academic success and helps to build a supportive social network within the incoming class as well as between students, faculty and staff. Mentor and past participant, Brianna Posadas, remembers that, during her first week of school, she visited Judy Fisher in Career Services to help with her resume because of the connection made during Summer Institute.
“It’s not only an academically enriching experience, but it also helps to build a sense of community,” says Vijay Ramakrishnan, first-year international student from Singapore. He explains that the students are able to form strong friendships and quickly bond within the two weeks.
In addition to being a learning experience for the participants, it’s also a learning (and bonding) experience for the mentors. Summer Institute’s six mentors, all past participants, are each responsible for a group of students and reside with them in the dorms for the duration of the program. Posadas, encouraged by the OID staff to become a mentor, says the opportunity helped build her confidence and leadership abilities. Many participants of Summer Institute go on to be mentors as well as leaders in student clubs and the student body.
Inspired by her experience, first-year Carolina Reyes says that she would love to be involved in the program next year if the opportunity arises. “One of the main things I took away from Summer Institute is to continue reaching out to other people. I want to make other people feel welcome.”