More than 100 new students spent the last month on campus through the SPECTRA (Speedy Consolidation and Transition) program, getting a head start on classes and life at the College of Charleston.  

SPECTRA specifically supports incoming students from historically underrepresented groups, including African American, Latino/Hispanic, Asian and Native/Indigenous Americans who might also be first-generation college students. 

Raymond Harris ’21, director of the SPECTRA program and associate director of the College’s Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services, says the goal is to encourage and empower SPECTRA students ahead of the regular academic year so they are prepared for and can be successful in their first year of college. As an alumnus of the College and SPECTRA program, Harris knows firsthand how SPECTRA supports students as they transition from high school to college.  

RELATED: Learn more about the SPECTRA program.

students dance outside on grass

SPECTRA students have some fun at the Y2K Block Party on July 21, 2023. (Photos by Mike Ledford)

“When we bring these 100 or so students to the College of Charleston campus for the SPECTRA program, they experience a wide range of emotions. Some are excited, some are nervous and some are borderline terrified,” says Harris, noting that these feelings are completely normal. “My goal is that, by the end of the SPECTRA program, my students have a better handle on how to deal with these emotions. 

“I hope our students, through the SPECTRA program, gain the skills necessary to advocate for themselves with professors, seek campus resources when needed and engage in different clubs and organizations,” Harris adds. “SPECTRA helps students get ahead because they get a taste of the college experience before the entire student body gets here and they get the opportunity to practice some of the skills that are essential to their success as a college student.” 

During the monthlong program, SPECTRA students live on campus, attend classes and participate in a range of social activities to build relationships with other incoming students and acclimate to life at the College of Charleston. Participation is nearly free, with costs for tuition, room, board and meals covered by the program.  

Incoming students Joshua Smith, McKenley Broomfield, Desiré Johnson and Chai-Soleil Harmon, who just completed the 2023 SPECTRA program, which ran from July 8 to Aug. 4, 2023, feel much more prepared for college life and are excited to come back to campus in a few weeks. Not only do they already have friends thanks to the program, but they have also completed two college-level courses through the program, too – which, they say, makes them feel better equipped for a full load of classes this fall. 

“I feel like it made me get out of my shell, and I think I’m going into college after this experience with more confidence,” says Johnson, who is from Florence, South Carolina. 

RELATED: Find out about programs offered through the Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services.

a group poses for a selfie on the college of charleston campus

College of Charleston President Andrew Hsu visits with SPECTRA students in the Cistern Yard.

Harmon, a biology major from Columbia, South Carolina, says adjusting to the rigors of the college-level courses she took this summer was difficult, but she’s “getting used to it” and is better prepared for classes this fall.  

Broomfield, an exercise science major and Charleston native whose father attended the College as a SPECTRA student, agrees that after completing his first two college-level courses in four weeks, he feels much more comfortable tackling four courses over the longer fall semester.  

As a student coming from out of state, Smith, who is from Bowie, Maryland, says SPECTRA gave him the opportunity to learn his way around campus and meet like-minded people from similar backgrounds.   

“I found a couple of friends that I’ll go into freshman year with, so I think that’s great,” says the computer science major.  

And although the SPECTRA program has concluded for the academic year, Rochelle Johnson, director of the Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services, says the students continue to receive support into their first year at the College through her office’s Mentoring Matters program. Additionally, through philanthropic support of the SPECTRA program, Johnson and her team can help SPECTRA students who may need financial assistance for things like academic supplies and costs associated with experiential learning opportunities, such as passports for study abroad programs. 

“We don’t want finances to be the determining factor of a student not being able to take advantage of all the opportunities the College provides,” she says. “We try to help them tackle some of those hurdles to opportunities they may want to tap into.”