New program to bring under-represented students to IU, support college careers

Monday, April 8, 2013

A new program will bring Indiana high school students from under-represented minority groups to the Indiana University Bloomington campus to introduce them to and prepare them for college and provide support throughout their academic careers at IU.

The Balfour Scholars Program is a project of the Center for P-16 Research and Collaboration at the IU School of Education in collaboration with the IU Office of Enrollment Management and the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs. A pilot program will begin this summer.

Thanks to a four-year, $800,000 grant from the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation, whose trustee is Bank of America N.A., the Balfour Scholars Program will provide students with support beginning the summer after their junior year of high school and continuing through the following year. For those who attend IU Bloomington, the support will extend throughout their college education.

The heart of the program, according to P-16 Center Director Ada Simmons, is helping students better understand themselves and using this information to drive decisions such as college selection and academic and career interests.

"We want them to make college choices that are really good for them as unique individuals," Simmons said.

The Balfour Foundation has a history of providing financial support for programs that promote college access, readiness and success for under-represented students. In 2010, the foundation funded a scholarship program at IU Bloomington for high-achieving students from under-represented populations.

The Balfour Scholars Program will recruit students from around Indiana, particularly focusing on schools in districts that are P-16 Center "Pathways Partnership" schools, such as Gary Community School Corp., Metropolitan School District of Pike Township in Indianapolis and South Bend Community Schools. Pathways schools have partnered with the P-16 Center to work toward improving graduation and college-going rates and better prepare students for 21st-century careers.

"This is a tremendous honor for IU Bloomington to make a difference in potential students' lives by providing them with opportunities to be inspired with focus and direction for their future education," said David Johnson, IU Bloomington vice provost for enrollment management. "Recruiting, enrolling and serving promising students like those that will be served through the Balfour Scholars Program is a top priority for the Office of Enrollment Management.

"The new program will provide another avenue for potential students to have early connections with IU and serves as a supplement to the outreach the IU Bloomington Office of Admissions is doing with high school counselors and community based organizations, and through pre-college partnerships with DEMA and other campus partners," Johnson said.

"The Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs has broad responsibility for programs, services and activities that advance academic excellence through diversity and inclusion at Indiana University," said Ed Marshall, IU vice president for diversity, equity and multicultural affairs. "DEMA is both proud and pleased to partner with the School of Education's P-16 Center and the Office of Enrollment Management in the implementation of the Balfour Scholars Program.

"The program will function as a natural complement to our other partnerships and programs within DEMA that reach out to the Indiana P-16 population and focus on college readiness and access. We look forward to this new opportunity to help increase the representation of under-represented minority students at Indiana University."

The Balfour Scholars Program has two components, beginning with a pre-college academy and senior year follow-up. Each summer, around 150 incoming high school seniors from minority groups that are under-represented in higher education will come to IU Bloomington for a five-day experience. During that week, participants will take part in information sessions and activities geared toward learning more about college, better understanding academic interests and connecting academic interests to careers.

By the end of the experience, Balfour Scholars will have developed a personal "road map" of specific IU Bloomington campus resources they would access as undergraduates to help them achieve their goals.

"It's the kind of skills that they need for every college campus visit," Simmons said, adding that through a self-assessment and personality inventory the participants will learn what they should look for in any college they consider. "They'll have this greater awareness and understanding of themselves and assess each campus enough to say, 'Knowing what I now understand about myself, would this be a good fit?'"

The personal road map will be generally applicable, but for those coming through the program into IU Bloomington, it will serve as a specific guide to opportunities and services that a Balfour program coordinator will help students reach.

The second component of the program includes the support of dedicated staff who will work closely with students as they maximize their collegiate experience at IU.

"The coordinator will certainly help reshape the road maps as students' understandings of themselves and their academic interests change," Simmons said, "but this will make sure that they get all the richness they desire -- and deserve -- from IU Bloomington."

In addition to guiding students toward services and interests, the program will help in connecting students with financial support and other resources.

The IU School of Education founded the P-16 Center in 2006 as a signature priority of Dean Gerardo Gonzalez. It is devoted to developing partnerships with schools and communities by understanding their needs and connecting them with groups at IU that can help promote student achievement and higher education attainment.