large group of students, faculty and staff members dressed in blue t-shirts and posing in front of the Student Services Building fountain

Oliver Wilson Scholars set up for success after completing summer program

Nearly 60 incoming students have already completed their first six weeks of college by participating as Oliver Wilson Scholars, a program designed to support diverse students and set them up for success.

The cohort of first-year students began the program, which is housed in the Division of Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, in late June. Students lived on campus, took two classes and attended a host of college readiness workshops. 

V'Lecea Hunter, senior director of diverse populations and retention initiatives, said programming was based on the "life readiness 101" courses designed last summer by high school students who participated in Grand Valley's Learner Engagement Challenge.

"The high school pipeline is an intricate part of Enrollment Development," Hunter said. "As we bring students to campus, they will know about the resources available to them and they will have ongoing support.

"The first six weeks on campus are the most crucial for students. Now these students understand what to expect."

That includes in the classroom and the "unwritten syllabus" of how to navigate campus, according to Ayana Weekley, faculty lead for the Oliver Wilson Scholars program. 

"The programming included space to give students resources for the unwritten syllabus, which is everything outside of class you need to know as a student," said Weekley, associate professor of women, gender and sexuality studies. 

Students earned six or seven credits by taking general education courses from mathematics, sociology, philosophy, English and WGS. Weekley said faculty and staff members were intentional about selecting courses for students that would accommodate different disciplines.

The Oliver Wilson Scholars program continues throughout the academic year. Hunter said student participants will meet regularly with success coaches to discuss study strategies, time and money management, and health and wellness.

B. Donta Truss, vice president for Enrollment Development and Educational Outreach, said the summer pipeline program was designed to encourage students to advocate for themselves throughout the academic year and get a jump start on understanding the "college-going process."

"By participating in workshops and talking about barriers to success, these learners know how to use the abundance of resources here at Grand Valley," Truss said.