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Freshmen prepare for success with KEY Summer Institute

Campus Life Aug 17, 2022
A group of students stand in front of a mural
A group of students stand in front of a mural

KOKOMO, Ind. —It’s completely normal for a college freshman to be a little nervous about the first day of class.

But because Jordan Henderson invested three days in attending Indiana University Kokomo’s KEY Summer Institute (KSI), he will start his semester ready to succeed.

“With being in this new environment and meeting new people, and knowing I have support from faculty, it makes me feel more confident with how I am going to do academically and socially,” said Henderson, from Frankfort.

“I was able to ask all of my questions and get them answered,” he said. “Being in a new environment and being able to have these next four years to put myself out there and make new friends and learn new things, it’s an incredible thing to be able to do. I’m looking forward to it all.”

Henderson was one of 32 new students participating in KSI, a free three-day program preparing them to transition successfully from high school to college.

The three days is a valuable investment, with a proven track record over nine years, said Christina Downey, interim executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“We see consistently that KSI students outperform everyone else,” she said. “They register for the next semester first, their GPAs are higher, and they have high persistence rates to graduation.”

Beau Shine, associate professor of criminal justice and homeland security, was one of six faculty members mentoring small groups of students. While they provided campus tours, taught about time management, and introduced them to campus resources, they also built relationships with the students, and helped them become a group of friends by the end of the session.

The groups also toured downtown Kokomo to see what kind of social opportunities are available, and took a field trip to Newfields, the art museum in Indianapolis.

The goal is for students to set themselves up for a strong start to their college careers.

“Confidence is number one,” he said. “We want them to come in feeling confident, and to understand that they are the architects of their own careers. They need to start strong and get on an upward trajectory right out of the gate.”

Knowing faculty members they can go to with questions is important as well.

“We want them to understand there are people who care about them, and want them to succeed, right from the beginning,” Shine said.

He enjoyed seeing the students become more self-assured and start to feel a sense of belonging — which is a key factor in college success.

“They realize this isn’t just a school, this is a community,” he said. “You get out what you put into it. The more you invest in it, the stronger the ties are going to be, and the more success you have.”

Downey said all incoming students are invited and encouraged to attend KSI, in addition to the required fall welcome boot camp. It provides a deeper look into not just what is available on campus, but time to think about how they will approach their college career, and how they can become a leader.

“They will be the first to ask a question in class because they know that to do that models to other students that you can,” she said. “It creates a ripple effect in creating a classroom atmosphere that is more willing to take risks and put themselves out there.”

Additional participating faculty members included Leda Casey, interim director of student success and teaching professor in geology; Rod Haywood, visiting lecturer in business; Sarah Heath, associate professor of history; Ashley Leicht, graduate program coordinator and visiting lecturer in business; and Lina Rifai, associate professor of vertebrate biology.

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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