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Students in the NUCLEUS academic support program
Maria Kontis, a current UD student who participated in NUCLEUS two years ago, leads the summer program students on a tour of campus with their fall schedules, showing them where their classes will be meeting.

Ahead of the game

Photo by Evan Krape

Summer program gives incoming students a preview

Meneya Harris was looking forward, a little nervously, to her freshman year at the University of Delaware when she heard about a program that she immediately saw as a perfect opportunity.

Through the NUCLEUS academic support program, she learned, a select group of incoming first-year students in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) could take part in a summer pilot program designed to ease their academic and personal transition to college. Harris, a graduate of Glasgow High School who plans to major in biological sciences at UD, was eager to join.

“I thought this would help me be ahead of the game,” she said. “I’d be able to earn some course credits, make some friends, learn my way around campus — and it’s free. It’s a perfect program.”

The five-week summer program, which began in 2014, is supported by a grant from the Navient Foundation. Organizers hope to build on the success of the initial small groups of participants and expand it in the future.

The program doesn’t support living on campus, so students must be able to commute, and most live in northern Delaware. Funding covers the cost of books, parking and other fees, in addition to tuition.

Students in the program take a regular summer-session course — which they select from a short list of recommended three-credit classes that fulfill University breadth requirements — and a weekly “student success seminar” designed to help them adapt to life and learning at UD. Speakers share information about such resources as the Career Services Center and Center for Counseling and Student Development, and the students learn how to use Morris Library and to find their way around campus.

Participants are also introduced to NUCLEUS, which offers resources to students throughout their undergraduate careers. The support program, which is open to all CAS students, fosters academic excellence by providing comprehensive academic services, connections, opportunities and information.

“All the students in the summer program join NUCLEUS, and we make sure they know the resources we offer and that they can always come to our office if they need help and aren’t sure where to start,” said Rosalind Johnson, assistant CAS dean for student success.

Destiny Mahmood, who took part in this summer’s program after graduating from Mount Pleasant High School, said she was unfamiliar with NUCLEUS at first but now believes “it’s going to be really helpful” to her as a UD student.

“And this summer program has helped me focus the way I think about majors, careers and how to study,” said Mahmood, who plans to major in psychological and brain sciences. “I don’t think I would have done that on my own, at least not this early.”

Another benefit has been seeing UD and its people firsthand before the start of freshman year, said Ayline Mejia, a William Penn High School graduate who has a communication interest major.

“I’ve been able to see what classes and professors are like, how the other students interact with them and each other,” Mejia said.

To Carly Meluney, the academic program manager who led the weekly student seminar this summer, the rise in self-confidence among the participants has been apparent.

“I feel like I’ve seen them grow and develop their comfort level even in just this short time,” she said. “Having that confidence is helpful in so many ways — participating in class, talking to a professor if you have questions, seeking out resources if you need help.”

On the last day of the seminar, neuroscience major Maria Kontis came to the classroom to talk about her experiences with NUCLEUS and the summer program.

“I was in your seat two years ago,” she told the group, adding that she’s now on track to graduate this spring, after three years at UD. “NUCLEUS has helped me every semester as I planned my schedule, and I found a great sense of community there. Their doors are always open; they say that, and it’s really true.”

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