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College invites 21 students to join Geoffrey Canada Scholars Program

April 13, 2018

A cohort of Bowdoin students from the Class of 2022 will arrive on campus six weeks before the start of the fall semester as part of the recently-announced Geoffrey Canada Scholars Program. The program, named after the educator and activist, is part of the College’s THRIVE initiative, which aims to better support low-income, first generation and underrepresented students. It connects programs such as Bowdoin Advising Program to Support Academic Excellence (BASE), the Bowdoin Science Experience and the peer academic mentoring program. THRIVE was announced in September after a $5 million donation from Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings ’83.

Canada ’74 is the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone and a member of the THRIVE advisory board.

For the six weeks before the start of the semester, approximately 16 students will work on academic enrichment, such as quantitative reasoning and college-level reading skills, while six Bowdoin upperclassmen will act as their resident and teaching assistants.

This year, the College invited 21 students to join the program, hoping to yield 16—the same number of students that are in a first-year seminar. Students were selected based on previous academic experience, extracurricular interests and geographic region, according to Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Charles Dorn. The Office of Academic Affairs and the Office of Admissions worked together to pick the students.

“This is a program that’s dedicated to four guiding principles: achievement, belonging, mentorship and transition for primarily low-income, first generation students and students historically underrepresented in higher education,” said Dorn.

The students who are part of the program will also enroll in a firstyear seminar together in the fall. The seminar will be taught by Belinda Kong, John F. and Dorothy H. Magee associate professor of Asian Studies and English, who has also worked as a BASE advisor twice in recent years.

“I think my first thought [when I was asked to teach the seminar] was: ‘I want to do it.’ I was excited because it is something I believe in. I was a first-generation student myself, and as a person of color, I understand the struggles of being in an environment where you may feel underprepared or you just want more resources, so I see that as part of my mandated mission in this college,” said Kong.

Kong hopes to have a sense of the students and their interests before she finalizes the reading list for the seminar. However she does want to incorporate dystopian fiction that draws from multicultural authors.

Dorn noted that the program will work in conjunction with other THRIVE initiatives.

“One of the things we’ll be able to do is essentially convene meetings of the directors of the various programs that comprise THRIVE and to leverage the benefits of each of those programs,” he said. “The faculty and staff who are involved in the various programs could come together and generate new ideas around how to best serve students.”

If the program’s first year proves successful the program’s directors may decide to expand it to accommodate more students.

“Bowdoin has been trying to diversify the student body for a few years and also to increase financial support for low-income students, so I feel like this is yet another piece of the puzzle,” Kong said. “It’s no longer simply about access but also about inclusion and support, and that’s been a very challenging piece not only to get the students here but to hear from them and have a sense of the things that would be helpful. We are trying to respond to that need.”

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