One of the College of Charleston’s most successful summer programs – SPECTRA – looks a little different this year. That’s because over 10% of the students participating in this five-week program are from outside the U.S. SPECTRA (Speedy Consolidation and Transition Program) is designed to help first-generation students and students of color adjust to college life. In the past, participants have primarily come from South Carolina, but this year the program has gone international – in a big way.
For over 40 years, the SPECTRA Program has been a mainstay of summer life at the College. Students who participate take college courses and engage in co-curricular and extracurricular activities all designed to help them acclimate to college life. This summer, the program has taken on a new dimension due to the fact that students from four different continents enrolled. Collectively, these students come from Haiti, Somaliland, Ghana, Mexico, Argentina, Venezuela, Vietnam and Nicaragua.
Rochelle Johnson, who directs the College’s Office of Multicultural Programs and Student Services (MSPS) where SPECTRA is headquartered, says that this is an exciting change.
“Having so many international students enrolled in SPECTRA shows us how genuinely global our campus is becoming,” she says. “When CofC President Andrew Hsu first arrived here, he talked about diversity and inclusion in a global sense, and when I learned about the number of international students joining our program this year, I said ‘That’s exactly what President Hsu was talking about.’”
Johnson explains that SPECTRA has never had this kind of international representation before. “This is a notable change,” she says, “but it’s a welcome one as well. Having this international influence causes us to broaden our horizons. We now look at diversity and inclusion in a much broader way. In addition, being able to introduce our domestic students in SPECTRA to students from different countries, cultures and backgrounds helps them to see diversity in a broader way as well.”
Both Johnson and Lynda Keller, the assistant director of MSPS, emphasize that SPECTRA has been overwhelmingly successful at the College.
“What we do helps high school graduates transition to college life in realistic ways,” Keller explains. “They not only enroll in summer classes and earn academic credit, but they live in a residence hall and participate in a variety of workshops and activities. Ultimately, they end up forming strong bonds with faculty, the student-leaders in the program and their fellow students. Now, they’ll also benefit by developing some awareness of cultures other than their own.”
And Johnson shares that sense of excitement. “I’m really excited to see how those relationships blossom among the students who are lifelong residents of South Carolina and those who are international,” she says. “The students from South Carolina will be getting the opportunity to tap into the life experiences of students who are very, very different than themselves.”
One of those international students, Hernitte Rivière, from Haiti says, “The SPECTRA Program has been a real advantage for me. It has provided me with a foundation to engage with other students from different parts of the world and build strong friendships. In a short period of time, I’ve made new friends from Somaliland and elsewhere. That makes for a great start to my freshman year. Also, I’ve especially enjoyed my African American studies class because we discuss important matters in depth that weren’t taught in high school.”
And Nicole Bravo-Guibao, a SPECTRA participant who was born and raised in Argentina before moving to the U.S., concurs. She says being able to find friends within the College’s Hispanic community – people who share her language and experiences – has been reassuring as she starts her undergraduate career.
“That’s been comforting,” she says, “but it’s also been good just getting to know where everything is on campus and having a better sense of how college works before the first day of classes.”
The 2022 edition of SPECTRA concluded on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022, but all the participants will continue to be supported throughout the coming academic year through a complementary MSPS program called Mentoring Matters. Each SPECTRA student will be paired with a faculty, staff or student mentor who will support and guide them during their first year at CofC. It’s all part of what SPECTRA does to help ensure these students’ success at the College.
For more information about SPECTRA, visit the program’s website.