Even though it seems summer would be a slow time at the University of Texas at Austin, DDCE’s Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence staff members have been busy each week with Gateway Scholars program student and parent orientations. As part of the university’s four-year graduation initiative led by Vice Provost David Laude, the Gateway Scholars program is doubling in size, with 600 incoming freshmen this fall.
According to Gateway Scholars Director Dr. Aileen Bumphus, Gateway fits nicely with Dr. Laude’s plan that every incoming freshman be part of a smaller learning community. “Every incoming freshman student will be attached to some type of community for the purposes of connecting and making the university a smaller place for students to engage and learn together,” said Bumphus. Other examples of small communities include DDCE’s Longhorn Link program, Freshman Interest Groups (FIGs), the Texas Interdisciplinary Plan (TIP) in the College of Natural Sciences and Equal Opportunity for Engineering Students.
Orientation is the first chance for Gateway staff members to welcome the incoming Gateway students, help them select their classes and meet their parents. Parents have had the opportunity to attend panel discussions that include Susie Smith, director of Texas Parents Association, and DDCE staff members who are parents of college students or have recently had children in college. Parents have had the opportunity to discuss their anxieties about their children coming to UT Austin and have learned about how best to support their students as they transition from high school to college and what the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) means for them. “Orientation has really changed the past few years,” said Bumphus. “We have had more information for parents and want to make sure there are sessions just for them.”