One of the reasons THRIVE director Jessica Perez wanted to bring together the eighty-six first-years in the new Bowdoin program she runs was to give them an opportunity to see the sheer size of their group.
“THRIVE is a community made up of all of you,” Perez said to the students gathered in Maine Lounge for the late-afternoon welcome reception last Thursday. “You can see you’re in a big community.”
Launched in 2018, THRIVE is a college-wide initiative funded by Netflix CEO Reed Hastings ’83 to transform and improve the college experience for students historically excluded from Bowdoin, including low-income students, students of color, and first-generation college students.
After explaining the different academic programs that comprise THRIVE — Geoffrey Canada Scholars, Bowdoin Science Experience, BASE, Bowdoin Science Scholars, Chamberlain Scholars, and Peer Mentoring* — Perez emphasized that these components add up to a larger community the students can connect to. “Together you’re a powerful group,” she said, “and we’re here to support you.” Throughout the semester, THRIVE will be offering students both academic workshops and social activities.
After Perez’s remarks, the students ate appetizers and played games. Perez brought out a surprise cake to celebrate students with recent birthdays. Two renditions of the song Happy Birthday were sung, including one more common in some African-American communities.
These types of gestures, both large and small, can help dispel a worry of many newly arrived first-year students, especially those from under-represented groups, that they don’t belong here. The majority of the THRIVE students come from cultural or geographical backgrounds that can feel far removed from a New England campus.
Mulki Hagi ’22, who is part of BASE and grew up with her Somali family in Portland, Maine, said that upon arriving at Bowdoin, it felt like “a different country.” To comfort herself when she’s homesick at night, and the moon is out, she says she sings a lunar blessing in Arabic her mother taught her. As she walks the straight walkways that cut across the Quad, she remembers her father’s admonition to adhere to the right path, so that Allah remains by her side.
“If Mulki feels that way and she is from Portland, Maine, imagine how some of the other students feel,” Perez noted.
- Geoffrey Canada Scholars launched this summer with fifteen first-year students, who arrived at Bowdoin six weeks before the academic semester started. These students participate in a summer institute and will remain scholars over the course of their Bowdoin careers. During their first-year, they enroll together in a first-year seminar together and meet every other week to participate in a series of workshops with classmates, faculty, and staff. In their sophomore year, they receive individualized guidance in developing fellowship applications, considering off-campus study options, and applying for summer internship opportunities. During their junior and senior years, they will become peer-mentors, providing guidance, advice, and assistance to first-year and sophomore scholars.
- Bowdoin Science Experience helps to develop the talents of students interested in science and mathematics—especially those from groups underrepresented in the sciences—including students of color, women, and first-generation college students. The major goal of BSE is to provide a head-start to science or math careers while exposing students to Bowdoin’s range of academic resources, study strategies and course offerings.
- BASE (BASE (Bowdoin Advising program to Support Academic Excellence) is an intensive advising program for students who have faced significant educational, cultural, or socioeconomic challenges before college and who could face above-average challenges adjusting to the academic and social life of Bowdoin. They often are the first to attend college in their families, have attended under-resourced high schools, or come from backgrounds significantly different from Bowdoin and New England. This year, out of the 99 who applied, 48 first-year students are in BASE, working with trained faculty advisors and upperclass student mentors.
- Bowdoin Science Scholars is a pilot program to support students who come to Bowdoin with great promise but who do not do as well as hoped in their first-semester science courses. A two-week program takes place during winter break and then continue through the spring semester, focusing on effective reading, problem solving and reasoning, and quantitative analysis.
- Chamberlain Scholars are awarded one of Bowdoin’s most prestigious scholarships, a $3,000 Joshua L. Chamberlain Scholarship, which is given to incoming first-year students who have shown promise of exceptional success in college. The scholarships can be used at any time during their time with the College in support of research, independent studies, career-related internships, travel expenses, and service learning or community engagement.
- Peer Mentoring, in the Baldwin Program for Academic Development, helps students balance the academic and social-emotional demands of college life. Mentors help their peers develop approaches to understanding, learning, and remembering new material; overcoming procrastination; learning from and utilizing feedback; or achieving the self-structuring demanded by an independent course or honors project.