Academic Connections: Changing to Fit Students' Needs

July 24, 2008
Melissa Frank

Since the summer of 2001, Academic Connections (AC) has simulated a college experience for incoming high school sophomores, juniors and seniors. Its target is to educate highly motivated high school students, while also having fun activities and programs. The Academic Connections program has transformed tremendously from its original structure to fit the needs of incoming students, their parents and for liability issues. These changes have benefited the program and have made Academic Connections as successful as it is today.

Transforming Administration

Xochitl Villanueva, Assistant Director of Academic Connections, commented on the administrative changes that the program has undergone from prior years. She wrote, “Last summer, we extended the student handbook from six pages to 24 pages.” By extending the handbook, students have more rules to follow to ensure their safety and to make the program more organized. Also, to guarantee that the program would go more smoothly, the program also added an expert resident dean to help guide the residential life aspect of the program. Academic Connections has also seen an increase in returning staff members, both residential and administrative. All of these changes have made the program more organized. With more administration, Academic Connections can focus on the different aspects of a student’s time at UCSD.

Dorm Life

Claudette Enriquez, a returning Academic Connections student, remarked that many aspects of Academic Connections have changed since her first year in the summer of 2007. Not only did Enriquez say that the food has gotten increasingly worse but that there are many more rules in the dorms. She added, “Girls are not allowed in guy common rooms this year.” Also, the housing situation has changed. She said that last year, the floors alternated between girls and guys by two floors per gender. This year, Enriquez noted, the dorms are less co-ed.

Policy Changes

Rancho Cucamonga resident, Clint Gordy, also noted changes in the Academic Connections program since his first summer experience. He said that the resident advisors are much stricter this year. For example, Gordy remarked that last year, “The lights out policy was a lot more lenient.” Students did not have to flick their lights off at a certain time. This year, students must have their lights off by 11 p.m. in order to avoid punishment.

Building a Bigger Program

Villanueva noted the increase in Academic Connections’ student population. Since 2001, the program has grown from 131 students to 255 students. Gender distribution has remained constant, with a little more than half of the students being female.

Since 2001, the evening programming of Academic Connections became increasingly more organized. According to Villanueva, “There are now four main themes to the residential aspect of the program taken on this summer: physical, social, educational, and community oriented.” Students now have a lot more choices on the activities they can participate in at night and on the weekends. New activities added this year include gumball machine making and Cumbia dance lessons.

Opening and Closing Ceremonies

Opening and closing day have also changed for Academic Connections. Now, both days incorporate a standard protocol. On opening day, Academic Connections now includes a portion of the day to address parents’ questions, hold campus tours, and allow the students to participate in a large scale ice breaker so they get a chance to meet each other. Angela Beck, an Academic Connections R.A., noted that this years’ opening day was more organized because the program decided to stagger who moved in, so there was less confusion and busy. Villanueva added that closing day ceremonies have evolved over the previous three summers. Now students can showcase their work from the previous three weeks through their final projects. These projects are displayed at the Price Center ballroom for all attendees to peruse. In addition, we hold an organized culmination ceremony and invite family members to attend.

The Academic Connections program has changed to fit the needs of a multitude of students. By making changes in the original program, Academic Connections has catered to students needs and will continue to have a successful program for years to come. Enriquez concludes that because of the changes made this year, “I will definitely return next year!” With the more organizational changes made, AC gives students a way to learn in a fun environment and provides activities to allow students to enjoy their summer while in school. The program’s success will only continue into further years.

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