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Geoffrey Canada Scholars program adapts in its second summer

September 6, 2019

While most of the Class of 2023 has spent the past week figuring out where the Roux Center for the Environment is and how to avoid getting caught in the 6 p.m. rush at Thorne Dining Hall, one cohort of 18 students already knew their way around campus. This year’s Geoffrey Canada Scholars arrived at Bowdoin in July and have been living in Baxter House, taking classes and getting to know the Brunswick area—five weeks before the start of Orientation trips.

The Geoffrey Canada Scholars program, which is designed to ease the transition to college for low-income students of color and first-generation students; began its second year at Bowdoin this summer and underwent minor changes since its inaugural year. Jessica Perez, the director of the THRIVE initiative, explained that some of the summer programming had been modified slightly following feedback from students, most significantly in its reduction from six weeks to five weeks of summer classes.

“One of the things that we heard back from students was that they were pretty tired by the time they actually started the academic year,” Perez said. “We were looking for ways to maybe balance out the experience a little bit better.”

The changes also reduced the class load from three to two courses: with students taking Quantitative Reasoning, Environmental Health and Writing and Rhetoric. The latter was taught by Meredith McCarroll, the director of writing and rhetoric and director of the first-year seminar program, and a rotating cast of secondary professors, including President Clayton Rose. Perez explained that the students had the chance to work and build personal relationships with faculty, staff, and fellow students.

The scholars were supported by four upperclassmen mentors, whose goal was to provide a peer outlet for the students’ queries about life at Bowdoin. They also had the opportunity to learn from older students and mentors. “It’s nice to know that there’s an upperclassman that has been in your shoes,” says Alex Ontogtokh ’21, who served as a mentor to the scholars.

“We want to see them find their own communities in terms of clubs and organizations,” Ontogtokh added. “The biggest reward for me is seeing them grow.”


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