Thursday, April 19, 2012

Daytona State faculty make connections through College Experience Day

About seven years ago, Richard Tamburro, a longtime professor of mathematics at Daytona State College, and Science Professor Walter Saviuk began visiting Pine Ridge High School in Deltona, connecting with at-risk AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program students there to persuade them that they had what it takes to be successful in college.
Then one day, a Pine Ridge teacher suggested that she bring her students to Daytona State for a visit. “That started College Experience Day, and it just keeps growing every year,” Tamburro said.
Retired longtime Science Professor and former
department chair Al Bonamy is among a number of
past and present Daytona State academics who
volunteer during College Experience Day.
College Experience Day is a component of a cross-discipline committee of faculty called College Connections.  Now comprised of more than 50 participating Daytona State faculty, committee members work directly with middle and high school teachers to bring their classes to Daytona State and get a taste of life as students of higher education.  Since 2005, more than 2,000 Volusia and Flagler County students have participated in a College Experience Day.
 “We work directly with the middle and high school teachers to give the students a college-level academic experience,” Tamburro said. “We send them to class for a day. We give them assignments, worksheets, homework. We do regular classes in just about every subject and scale them to their skill levels, so they can gain a sense of accomplishment and feel like they can be a success when they attend college.”
AVID is a national program designed to help students in the middle prepare for and succeed in colleges and universities. Students in the program commit themselves to improvement and preparation for college. AVID offers a rigorous program of instruction in academic “survival skills” and college-level entry skills. More than 425,000 elementary and secondary school students participate in the program nationwide.
Recently retired Photography Professor and
department chair Patrick Van Dusen speaks on
the finer points of photographic technology.
During a typical College Experience Day, students attend 50-minute classes that involve active learning activities. Usually, two or three classes are offered simultaneously. Students then have lunch with Daytona State career counselors and academic advisors, who help them explore career and degree options.
It’s a passive form of recruitment, Tamburro said, noting, however, that the effort encourages the students to consider pursuing higher education in general, not just attending Daytona State exclusively.
“True; however, the value of the faculty-to-faculty relationship between the college and schools is immeasurable.” said Dr. Tom LoBasso, Daytona State’s senior vice president for student development and institutional effectiveness, whose enrollment division plays a supporting role in some College Experience Days.
Tamburro acknowledged that strengthening the bonds between the college and local schools has always been a goal of his group. But the real focus of the effort is on encouraging students and removing barriers to a college education. “We mainly work with the AVID students, but we also work with honors students. We are open to anyone. We never say no, but the at-risk students are the ones who need the push to come to college.”
Statistically speaking, the math professor added, those at-risk students, if they do enroll in college, are most likely to attend Daytona State for their first two years.
In addition to College Experience Day, the committee also targets Daytona State’s Adult Education students through its “Ed Pass” program, which offers a reward incentive that allows adult high school and GED students to sit in on college-level classes. Its CAPS program helps students with the college admissions application process, assisting them, for example, with writing letters of introduction and honing their interview skills. The committee also is piloting a Meet the Professor program, where Volusia students visit Daytona State on early release days to visit professors and gain insights into various disciplines such as photography, art, music and dance.
In addition, the committee is nearing completion of a new Daytona State College Speakers Bureau, scheduled to launch next fall. Over 30 professors have submitted presentation topics, Tamburro said. Professor Richard Doolin leads a video presentation team that will offer lectures through the online component of the Speakers Bureau.