Summer Academy Successfully Graduates First Class

by Allison Ryan '05

The first session of the Scripps College Summer Academy was, in the words of one student, “an experience we’ll never forget.”

The two-week residential program, which had its inaugural session this June, introduced high school-aged women from racially and economically diverse backgrounds to college life. After academic seminars taught by Scripps faculty; tours of the libraries and nearby attractions, and workshops on a range of topics-from financial aid and college admission to visualizing success-the 30 young attendees learned what to expect when applying to colleges and how best to utilize their opportunities.

The program came together this sumrner with seed money from the James Irvine Foundation, support from the President’s Office, the work of program director Rufina Cortez, and a committed faculty, staff, and student committee.

At the conclusion of Summer Academy, Cortez conmmented: “One of thc greatest satisfactions for me was to see the enthusiasm, energy, and appreciation shared by both the participants and the their respective families. I am especially honored to have worked with a team of facilitators, resident advisors, faculty, volunteers, and oter members of the Scripps community who gave their all to make the Scripps College Summer Academy the success that it was for our participants.”

In the first week’s morning seminars, students and professors discussed topics from Newtonian and quantum mechanics to memoir and autobiography, weaving in concerns about racism, sexism, and classism. Professor of History Julie Liss said the students “began to see ‘personal’ issues as part of larger social and political ones and also to see that people different from themselves have different perspectives.”

“Who has power in your lives? Are you powerful?” questioned Nancy Neiman Auerbach, professor of international political economy, in a discussion of categories of power. Mary Hatcher-Skeers, associate professor of chemistry, compared combining sound waves to the way individuals and opportunities interact.

Like waves, people can add to their environment positively,” resulting in a better situation or higher volume, or “negatively,” resulting in loss or silence. “In the end.” she reminded the class, “you have to make the choice.” Sheila Walker, associate professor of psychology, discussed cultural differences with respect to the meaning of puberty, and the social and psychological consequences of pubertal change in several cultures.

Profersor of Art Nancy Macko presented the work in varying media of more than 20 women artists of color who “risk sharing their beliefs and perspectives to challenge the status quo.” One of thc paintings Professor Macko chose was a modern restyling of the Virgin of Guadalupe in a bikini by Los Angeles artist Alma Lopez. This image stimulated a lively discussion among the students. One thought the painting was disrespcctfu1. Another was upset by the changes it made in the way she thinks about the virgin, while yet another pointed to this artisti ability to trample stereotypes, showcasing the Virgin’s humanity and womanhood instead of the expected humility. Another student believed it was a celebration of virginity. They thought, debated, and did not reach a consensus.

Jane O’Donnell, the Bessie and Cecil Frankel Professor of Music, led a discussion of movie soundtracks with a focus on fighting stereotypes in education. Amy Marcus-Newhall, associate professor of psychology and the associate dean of faculty, conducted an activity in which students were able to experience the powerful effects both of stereotyping and being stereotyped. In addition, she discussed the effects of stereotypes, self-fulfilling prophecies, and low expectations on academic achievement.

With a variety of classes, the students were exposed to combinations of topics they might not find in their high schools. They experimented with new words, feeling out the proper weight to give them a grown-up, sophisticated ring-“quantum physics” and “hegemony” peppered their conversations. Students were so excited about what they were learning that they continued to talk about their classes among themselves and with student facilitators and resident advisors.

“We could take what they were learning out of classroom discusions:” said facilitator Lee Ann Wang ’03, “and talk about it during mealtimes, at the pool, in the village, at floor meetings.

Our job was to find a way to connect what they did in the morning sessions to the workshops and the rest of the program.”

The second week was devoted to group projects, which the students presented before their peers, family, friends, staff, faculty, and President Bekavac at the program’s closure. They could have picked any topic from the discussions, but most focused on topics related to stereoypes and their effect on marginalized populations. The students, guided by professors and Scripps student facilitators and resident advisors, put together complete, comprehensive presentations in the 12 classroom hours they were given, Including studies, skits, an art/psychology experiment, poetry, a website, and a video memoir. The faculty were impressed by the level of professionalism and understanding the students displayed. Cortez said the students’ presentations constituted her “most memorable moments” during the two weeks. “These young scholars are a true inspiration to the commitment for diversiy of ideas, exposure, and life experiences.” she said.

With follow-up programs-including workshops on campus, ongoing comnmunication with students and their parents, and help with applications-the College plans to stay involved with Summer Academy participants. “I hope that this program will encourage these young women to apply to and attend Scripps College,” says Neiman Auerbach. “I know that we would be a richer and more vibrant community if they did, and I also believe that Scripps has a lot to offer them.”

In the end, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. In the words of one student, “My grade for the Summer Academy would be a 10, on a scale of 1-10, 10 being Awesome! Great! Yahoo!”

The program leaders agreed. “It was physically draining every day,”Wang admitted, “but I’ve never felt so alive in my entire life.”

“There are always things to look back at, things to change for next year,” said Cortez, with a smile that shows she is more than satisfied with the program’s debut.

“We really gave the students a taste of what college is like,” observed Liss. “The Summer Academy is a program that should inspire young women about the value of a college education.”

Marcus-Newhall added: “I think the program was a great success, not only for the students themselves, but also for the faculty, the student facilitators and resident advisors, and the College. This is exactly the kind of programming the College should support.”