NACURH Winner
Month: August 2018

NACURH, INC.

Diversity Program of the Month
CONNECTIONS

School: Clemson University Region: SAACURH
Person in charge: DeOnte Brown Nominator: Lanitra Ferguson

Target Population: n/a Time Needed to Organize: n/a
Number of People in Attendance: 97 Date(s) of Program: 2006-PRESENT
Number of People Needed to Organize: 42 Cost of Program: n/a
On-Campus Population: 6500 Chapter Size: 65

Origin of Program:

CONNECTIONS is a program designed for first-year students who identify themselves as a student of color (Black, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian, Native American, multiracial) and/or first-generation student who needs assistance with their transition into Clemson University. This program originated from a prior program titled Black Education Support Team (B.E.S.T.) in 1992, which was ran by a Student Development Department staff member, Barbara Kennedy. Next in 1995, B.E.S.T. with the collaboration of the Union and Student Development departments became affiliated with the Office of Multicultural Affairs, which led to a name change of the program to Education Support Team (E.S.T.). E.S.T. was a program designed to be more inclusive to all students of color. Later, in 2006 the program was renamed to MPASsadors before being rebranded to CONNECTIONS. This name change was brought upon the idea of mentors assisting incoming students in making connections with the resources found on campus in order to support the retention and success of these students from underrepresented populations.

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Please give a short description of the program:

The CONNECTIONS program primary focus is to provide effective peer mentors and a living-learning community for first-year students of color and/or first- generation students. The Division of Student Affairs titled the Student Transitions and Family Programs on Clemson University’s campus is the powerhouse that generates programs like CONNECTIONS to provide the CONNECTIONS Experience for each and every of their participants. The CONNECTIONS Experience allows students with the opportunities for personal growth through personal development, academic engagement, culture and diversity, support network and involvement.

Each participant's personal growth begins with the built-in sense of belonging to Clemson through the initiative and outreaching support of the support network or peer mentors, student leadership team and CONNECTIONS staff members. This formation of a community allows for one’s personal development to flourish. For example, a participant may develop a sense of identity and values as he/she learns from evaluating their peers, mentors, and others associated with CONNECTIONS values and behaviors to their own thoughts and beliefs.

A participant's academic engagement is both academic identification and academic participation. The CONNECTIONS program helps guide participants to a high academic engagement in their chosen major by using their peer mentors. The peer mentors are provided as a source of encouragement for one to attend their classes and assist them by guiding them through the difficulties of being exposed to the different teaching style and academic standards of college courses versus high school and/or the lack or growth in diversity present in their classrooms.

Culture and diversity is explored by the participants as they are enrolled in an educational course focusing on racial/ethnic diversity, religious ideology, sexual identity, and macro- and micro aggressions. The coursework done throughout the timespan of a semester allows each participant to reflect on their own upbringings while being exposed to the stories of their peers and interactions with other cultures that may differ from their own. Also, besides the participant’s personal reflection they also have the opportunity to discuss any questions or concerns with their peer mentor to develop a deeper understanding on the culture and diversity importance on Clemson’s campus.

Lastly, together the support network and involvement this program provides does not just allow it’s participants to meet new people such as faculty and staff, it allows them to reach beyond social activities but to encourage them to be apart of organizations on a campus that is unfamiliar to them.

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Goals of the program:

The goal of the CONNECTIONS program is to empower the students of color on Clemson's campus to recognize that they are scholars who will achieve positive changes within themselves, the Clemson Community, and the world.

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Positive and lasting effects of the program:

For the participants of the CONNECTIONS program that actively engage and make use of the opportunities this program provides they are better prepared to successfully complete their college career at Clemson while still having the long- term support of this program to help, advise, and/or celebrate their accomplishments. Also, every participant after completing a year in this program as a mentee has the opportunity to become a mentor. Through this mentor position they will be able to enhance and build on personal development, academic engagement, culture and diversity, support network and involvement through their volunteered service to helping their mentees through their first-year experiences. Overall, by being a mentee or becoming a mentor your knowledge regarding the importance of culture, diversity, and self-importance on Clemson’s campus will act as an empowering tool to encourage each of their participants to become the change they want to see on campus.

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Short evaluation of the program:

This program hands-down is one of the most impactful and influential programs on Clemson’s campus created to increase the success and retention of the students of color who attend this university. Without the presence of this program I do not believe that the personal accomplishments made by the first-year participants would have been existent. Not only does this program create a community in which the students of color feel welcomed, this program also does not limit their capability to exceed. However, the CONNECTIONS programs partnership with Residents in Science and Engineering Program (RiSE) and the Community for Undergraduate Business Students (CUBS) living-learning communities allows for the CONNECTIONS program to reach out to other major-specific programs on campus leaving an impact on the students of color not located in their own living- learning community.

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How could this program be adapted to other campuses?

The key to building an effective program that maintains a high retention rate of its students of color is by forming an authentic bond of support between the participants and the peer mentors, student leaders, and staff members. This support network is what drives the participants desire to want to succeed and advance onto the next school semester.

The CONNECTIONS program acts as an example to other campuses that may not address the need of diversity and culture appreciation among the students of color that enroll and endure the difficulties of their classes and the social environment surrounding them. For the campuses that do not have programs such as CONNECTIONS should invest in some type of program that forms a support network for their students of color. This is not just important for the students that participant in the program but for the holistic health of the diversity on campus.

Word Count: 150



Date of entry into database: 2018-09-01 12:08:44

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