Program Continues to Expand in Strategic Response to the Black Student Experience Task Force Recommendations
Aug 29, 2018 | Atlanta, GA
OMED: Educational Services’ 38th annual Challenge program welcomed 110 incoming first-year students to Georgia Tech this summer. During the five-week intensive academic preparation program, incoming students prepared for a successful college career by addressing the “7C’s” (computer science, chemistry, calculus, communication, career development, cultural competency, and community service).
This year’s cohort consisted of 48 percent women, 66 percent African-American, and 29 percent Hispanic/Latino students. The participants also represented more than 20 different majors with 39 percent pursuing non-engineering degrees.
“The long-term goal of Challenge is to enroll a more diverse undergraduate population at Georgia Tech reflecting the demographic diversity of the United States through programming that enables these students to thrive and perform at the highest levels,” said S. Gordon Moore Jr., executive director of the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion.
Challenge participation has nearly tripled in size since its inception at Georgia Tech. “As a strategic response to the Black Student Experience Task Force recommendations, Challenge began to expand three years ago when we had an opportunity to build the program’s capacity to contribute to higher performance and graduation rates of underrepresented students,” said Archie Ervin, vice president for Institute Diversity.
“The data shows that your first-semester performance can dictate your graduating GPA,” said Cedric Stallworth, assistant dean of outreach, enrollment, and community for the College of Computing and computer science instructor for the program. “Challenge is a program that helps prepare incoming first-year students for a successful transition.”
Last year, for example, the average fall first semester GPA of Challenge participants was 3.35 compared to the 3.22 GPA of non-Challenge participants.
As OMED Assistant Director and Challenge Director Sybrina Y. Atwaters explained, “For five weeks, Challenge students lived in a first-year dorm, took classes from professors, and participated in activities like whitewater rafting and mental health and well-being workshops. After volunteering in the Atlanta community, participants also used their enhanced knowledge about the community – along with their academic interests – to develop social impact project solutions like urban farming.” Atwaters serves as the communications, career, and cultural development instructor for Challenge.
Each Challenge student completed 4,500 in-class minutes of computer science, calculus, and chemistry; 1,560 in-class minutes of communications and interpersonal development training; and 1,560 in-class minutes of direct corporate engagement and professional development training.
“The relationships that Challenge students establish with each other and with faculty will last throughout their time at Georgia Tech, which will help them weather the inevitable hard times and set them up for success in the future,” stated Michael Evans, first-year chemistry laboratory coordinator for the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry and chemistry instructor for Challenge.
“I’m glad that I participated in this program,” undergraduate Jeniveve Vaia told the audience at the Challenge closing banquet on July 26. “When I saw compassion by my fellow students asking about other students’ well-being or opening a spot in their group study sessions, it made me proud and excited to spend the next several years at Tech.”
During the closing banquet, OMED recognized participants with certificates and presented more than $18,000 in awards and incentives from corporate supporters.
“Georgia Tech is a place where you will thrive in a community and by learning from those around you. By sharing our strengths, we were all able to perform the best that we could in Challenge,” added Jaylen Williams, an undergraduate student who received the BP Scholar award.
The Challenge program is supported by the following corporate partners and sponsors: 3M, Bechtel, BP, Eaton, ExxonMobil, John Deere, Marathon Petroleum Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Southwire, and SunTrust.