A change in courses for multicultural and first-generation College of Charleston students is designed to increase retention rates and streamline the students’ first semester on campus. For the first time, students in the SPECTRA program were able to take their required First Year Experience (FYE) course during the summer. Also, the peer facilitator component, which is usually taken at the same time, was moved to the fall semester so students could continue the transition to campus with assistance.

“We really think these changes are a recipe for success,” says Teresa Smith, Ed.D., director of the Center for Multicultural Student Programs and Services. “Many multicultural or first-generation students are hesitant to ask for help or don’t have family members they can ask. With this change, we are extending the SPECTRA program so they can lean on each other and their peer facilitator throughout the fall semester.”

SPECTRA is a unique and extremely challenging summer transition and residential program available to incoming multicultural and first-generation college students attending College of Charleston full-time in the fall. This summer, they were able to be part of one of four learning communities focused on topics ranging from Public Speaking to Hip Hop Evolution and Impact. Many of the faculty teaching these courses are also from a multicultural background.

Starting this week, all SPECTRA students will attend a weekly synthesis seminar led by a peer facilitator. The peer facilitators working with SPECTRA students are either first-generation college students or have a multicultural background. They will discuss transitional issues, both academic and non-academic, including: time management, study skills, test-taking skills, and making connections between classes.

“Peer facilitators are trained to be effective peer mentors,” says Page Keller, director for the Center for Excellence in Peer Education. “The new students can easily relate to them and are more likely to share problems and concerns with a peer facilitator than with a staff or faculty member. This is a proactive step by the College to ensure student success.”

The first part of the program has been a success and plans are already underway to offer the same experience next year.

For more information about SPECTRA, contact Teresa Smith at smitht@cofc.edu. For more information about peer facilitators, contact Page Keller at kellerp@cofc.edu.