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The Office of Undergraduate Studies

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Audran Ward directs the office of undergraduate studies

For 30 years, Colgate has been offering programs that provide financial and academic help to promising students from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.

The Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUS), which originated in 1967 as the University Scholars Program, identifies prospective students with high potential for success who may not have benefitted from the high school preparation enjoyed by other Colgate applicants. OUS provides a five-week summer session prior to the first year to help make the transition from secondary school to college-level work.

The summer session includes a selection of credit-bearing courses in writing and in the humanities, social sciences or science and math. Throughout their undergraduate careers, OUS participants also have access to a variety of professional and peer tutoring and counseling services that contribute to their success.

A relatively new component of the OUS program — the Science and Math Initiative (SMI) — is jointly administered with the Division of Science and Mathematics and includes a nine-week summer research apprenticeship during the sophomore year. SMI aims to bring under-represented groups into the sciences and math.

The new director of OUS is Audran Ward, who joined the college last fall on the 30th anniversary of the founding of the program. Associate Dean of the Faculty Charles McClennen, who led the search that resulted in Ward’s hiring, says she excels "in helping people become what they have the potential to be. OUS is not just a summer program," says McClennen, who served as interim director, "but four years that help students to get their feet on the ground, and then develop their academic and leadership skills."

Five current OUS students recently gathered to discuss their experience with the program. Their comments, excerpted here, provide an insight into what the program means to its participants.


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Isela Urbina '01
Isela Urbina ’01
A native Honduran, lives in the Bronx

Last semester I took an introduction to Latin American studies. I knew that those issues and that topic were what I wanted to talk about for the rest of my life. They are issues related not just to me, but to a lot of people in the United States. I’m looking at a double major in art and Latin American studies.

I was excited about coming to Colgate. Whenever I thought about college, I imagined this sort of setting. I know that I’m going to live in a city for the rest of my life. But for these four years, living in an area like this is an experience.

Besides being a learning experience, the summer is a bonding experience. You are here with the same individuals for five weeks and when you come back in the fall for freshman orientation, you seek out these friends. The people I was in the OUS program with are my closest friends.

The summer program was very similar to the academic semester. We had upperclass students who assisted and lived with us. They continued on into the regular semester as upperclassmen we could go to and ask questions. The help never ends. Even though they were seniors they e-mailed or we called each other and just talked about all sorts of different things. Not just school, not just Colgate.

My financial aid package is excellent. Some universities give you a huge aid package the first year and it decreases as you continue through school. I’ve talked to upperclassmen and they say that doesn’t happen here.

The opportunities are endless. It’s defining me here, my participation in all these groups. Not only is it helping my social life, but it’s helping my time management and I don’t have all that free time on my hands.


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Keith Brooks '01
Keith Brooks ’01
Ft. Lauderdale, FL

Professor Wagner challenged me to believe in myself and made me realize I can get my degree and be somebody. That started in the summer, in a philosophy course. We still have a relationship. I talk to him all the time. I show him my papers for feedback.

For five weeks the summer program is like one big family. It’s not a matter of race or anything, everyone is like brothers and sisters.

I had a week out of high school to get ready to come here. At first it was overwhelming, but after that first week you get used to it and you find out what you have to do to make it. The resident advisers really encourage you and help with any problem. One of our RAs was a graduate and another came back four years after graduating.

We get support from each other. The people that you went through the program with make sure that you don’t get behind. You know the people that were in the program with you and you can go talk to them when you can’t go talk to anybody else.

Colgate can be challenging. But it’s like anything else in life: if you put your mind to it and are dedicated and committed to succeed and survive I think you can do it without a problem. You just have to be willing and committed to be focused on your goals and not let anything become an obstacle.

Colgate does a good job in making sure that students are equipped with everything they need to do the best that they can.


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Elzbieta Mroz '98
Elzbieta Mroz ’98
A native of Olsztyn, Poland, lives in Brooklyn

A lot of us wouldn’t be here except for OUS.

Coming from a high school with little resources, with not such a supportive system, to come to the summer program here highlighted how important it is to become educated. It showed the academic standards that I would be required to fulfill at Colgate. And it eased my transition coming from a city into a rural area. The individuals I met created a community that I could fall back on in times of both academic and personal difficulties. Basically, an environment that’s alien turns into a familiar place, almost as good as home.

As you gain experience you become more independent and comfortable with the area. You don’t necessarily need to come back to OUS but you do, just to say hello, and you always know that they are here, just in case. Whether it’s a personal or academic problem, it’s that feeling that there is somebody to help you to go out and become independent.

OUS students create their own discipline. I remember everyone saying, ‘Let’s stop procrastinating, it’s time to do the academics,’ so we created our own checks.

Being an upperclassman, a lot of people ask me for notes or borrow my books. You really do create a sense of community.

Beyond any sort of price that you have to pay financially or even emotionally, the experiences here will enrich you. It’s through the support system that we are reassured that we do belong here and that we can become successful.

You get to know people that I don’t think you could experience at a bigger university. I don’t think that you would get the one-on-one attention with professors that you do here.


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Omorlie Harris ’00
Omorlie Harris ’00

I learned about Colgate from a friend, Tahshann Richards [’99]. She’s also SMI.

I’m planning to be a math major. I’m in ‘Foundations’ right now — a theoretical course that develops your thinking as a mathematician.

I wasn’t sure what to expect coming in. Through SMI I got to experience what college science would be like. I wanted to see if chemistry was for me. The summer program gave me that chance. In the end, I decided on math. Summer was a good orientation of what to expect. It was a very positive experience.

We have an excellent mentoring program — whatever major you choose, you get paired with a professor. My professor keeps me up with what’s going on in terms of internships and sends me e-mail: ‘Look into this,’ ‘Are you interested in that?’ It gives me someone to go see.

As an SMI student you get to come back after second year and work on research in whatever department you choose. I chose to do research in chemistry/environmental studies. That turned out very well. We went to the Adiron-dack Mountains, tested soil and worked one-on-one. You get paid for the research. I also took an independent study in math.

SMI is definitely a good summer program and a chance to take advantage of science classes — an opportunity that not a lot of colleges give students. I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t jump to accept this offer. You get to meet so many new people. You know at least one professor when you get back in the fall. The OUS program as a whole allows you to make connections with faculty and administrators.

Some students may not want to give up five weeks of their summer. But they’ll definitely enjoy the summer, and they’ll see how beneficial it is. It’s pretty here in the summer. The program exposes inner city kids to things you might not get to do, like rock climbing and caving. It’s all worth it.