The USM Office of New Student and Retention Programs is currently accepting applications for a program by which select incoming freshmen take summer courses, live in dorms and learn about the university’s various support services.
According to Amy Miller, associate provost for Academic Excellence, the Jump Scholars program is intended to ensure the participants’ academic success and establishes them as resources for their peer freshmen in the fall. She said participants learn where tutoring is held for various subjects, are familiarized with university programs and hone their speaking and writing skills.
“They’re kind of resources for other students by the time fall comes around,” Miller said.
Freshman psychology major Lisa Brackeen told Southern Miss Now the resources she learned through the program have been immensely helpful to her in her academic career.
“It helped me become more aware of how to explore campus, so I wasn’t lost my first day of fall semester,” Brackeen said. “Also, the program gave me so many resources and tips that have helped me come out of each semester thus far with a 4.0 GPA.”
Miller said the Jump Scholars reflects the purpose of the New Student and Retention Programs, which coordinates with departments to support students from their first moments on campus through graduation.
“There’s a lot of familiar programs that are there,” Miller said. “For instance, First Year Initiatives, which has been highly successful and been around for a long time, is now housed within New Student and Retention Programs [and] also there are other things like the Jump Scholars program, [which] was exclusively in the College of Arts and Letters, has been expanded to be a university-wide effort.”
Miller said supporting and engaging freshmen through such programs is of particular importance because it is one of the university’s best methods of retaining students and ensuring success down the road.
She said most USM students that drop out do so as freshmen.
According to USM Institutional Research, from 2001 to 2014, first-time, full-time freshmen who enroll directly after graduation from high school dropped out at a rate between 28.6 and 23.1 percent.
“The more we can coordinate programs to support our students, the better,” Miller said. “I think you can look in the next few years to see more programs roll out, particularly around financial literacy and support to help students with financial management and understanding the role that plays in their success.”
Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Thomas Burke said programs like Jump Scholars are important particularly because they engage students. He said his office and others coordinate with New Student and Retention Programs and work independently to engage students.
“That old proverb ‘It takes a village’ – it really does take a lot of people to ensure a student’s success,” Burke said.
Burke said students who do not make friends, join organizations and don’t have a who don’t get involved with the university beyond their coursework are more likely to fall through the cracks. He said one of the focuses of his office is to engage freshmen in the residence halls.
“The one opportunity we have to affect students in a positive way is really through residence life because you have staff who are there 24/7,” Burke said. “Never again will you have that opportunity at the university to affect that many students as you do at residence students. There’s been a lot of conversation between Residence Life and Dr. Amy Miller in the areas relating to student success of how to be more intentional of what we do in the residence halls, especially with freshmen.”
Burke said ways to improve retention are in constant development at the university.
“The area in what is called the Learning Commons, we’re trying to create that as a student success area, but that’s in the early stages of planning to have a lot of services centrally located where the Writing Center is.”
He said the plan is to create a physical one-stop location for students to access student support resources.
“This is not going to be a quick turnaround effort. It’s going to take several years to get all the pieces in place,” Burke said.
The deadline for Jump Scholars applications is March 18. For more information, visit: www.artsandlettersnow.usm.edu/jump. For student success resources, visit: www.usm.edu/success.