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KEY Summer Institute offers head start on college success

Campus Life Aug 12, 2021
Two women at a picnic table
Two women at a picnic table

KOKOMO, Ind. – Claire Rice has big plans for her first year at Indiana University Kokomo.

With a goal of becoming a nurse, she wants to get off on the right foot with good grades in her anatomy class, and make some new friends.

She and about 80 other new students took the first steps towards success, by attending the KEY Summer Institute, a free three-day program to prepare them to transition from high school to college.

“I’m just now getting to know everybody, and the whole campus. It’s stressful,” said Rice, who moved to Kokomo from Lafayette. “This is a place I can get to know people, and understand what campus is about. It helps.”

In its eighth year, the KEY Summer Institute has a proven track record, according to Christina Downey, associate vice chancellor for academic affairs and student success.

“This program is uniquely associated with academic success,” said Downey. “Even taking into account the typical demographic factors that would predict student success, students who come to this program are more likely to persist to their second year successfully.”

The outstanding faculty play an important role, she noted, along with the opportunity to make friends before classes begin Monday, August 23.

“We have awesome faculty working with these students. They get such close relationships with the students,” Downey said. “They really get to know each other, and become a tight group. Throughout the first semester, the whole first year, you will see them together. They want to keep that relationship going because they enjoy each other so much.”

During lunch the second day, the group led by Christina Romero-Ivanova, assistant professor of education, and Beau Shine, assistant professor of criminal justice and homeland security, gather in groups around the table, talking and laughing.

The friendships they’ve made are part of what make the program special, according to incoming student Ethan Thatcher.

“You learn that you’re not alone,” he said. “Other people are struggling with the same things you are. They’re nervous about classes too, and how everything is going to work out. We know we can figure it out together.”

Class field trips were part of the bonding experience, said Brylee Riebe, noting that they toured historic and touristy places in Kokomo, visited some local businesses, and had lunch together in downtown Kokomo.

“This is a good opportunity to meet people and make friends before jumping straight into the semester,” she said. “We’re having fun, along with doing some work.”

Shine, one of the faculty mentors, said they also learned about resources available on campus, such as the writing and math help centers, the food pantry, and counseling and psychological services. They also reviewed money and time management skills and how to use campus technology.

“This whole program is about removing barriers to success,” Shine said. “Now they know where these resources are, so they know where to find them if they need them. They know where everything is, who runs it, and how it operates. Now, they know how to resolve issues when they come up.

“Our goal is to give students a sense of familiarity with the campus, so they come in comfortable and hopefully confident, and can hit the ground running on the first day of class.”

Additional participating faculty include Tsarai Chimhanda, visiting lecturer in business; Amanda Hanson, adjunct faculty in education; Tara Kingsley, associate professor of education; Ashley Leicht, graduate program coordinator and visiting lecturer in business: J.R. Pico, senior lecturer in Spanish; and Lina Rifai, associate professor of vertebrate biology.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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