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The Chesick Scholars in July, heading to Philadelphia for a visit to the Mutter Museum.
The Chesick Scholars in July, heading to Philadelphia for a visit to the Mutter Museum.

John P. Chesick Scholars Program Launches

This summer, Haverford College welcomed its first group of students into the John P. Chesick Scholars Program. Designed to give excellent students from underrepresented or under-resourced backgrounds an opportunity to be mentored and to capitalize on College resources, the Chesick Scholars Program began with an intensive five-week summer course in July.

For the 15 incoming freshmen in the inaugural class of Chesick Scholars, the summer program provided a head start on campus orientation and early exposure to the intensity of Haverford coursework. “What was exciting was the extent to which these students who were not yet freshmen were willing to sink their teeth in and engage in real rigorous academic activity over the summer,” says Jeff Tecosky-Feldman, senior lecturer in mathematics and director of the Chesick Scholars Program.

Named in honor of the late John P. Chesick (pronounced cheese-ik), a Haverford chemistry professor from 1962 to 1999 who was known as a strong mentor to his students, the program is supported by a generous donation from the San Francisco Foundation, which has funded its launch and operation for five years.

As the Chesick Scholars Program launches into its first year, it will be supported by, and evolving alongside, the new Office of Academic Resources (OAR). The OAR’s postgraduate intern Candace Jordan ’12 coordinated many aspects of the summer program, including housing for the participants, tours and day trips. The OAR will also administer the mentoring program that will see the Scholars through the next four years.

“I was happy to hear in the evaluations that they thought [the summer] was hard work,” Jordan says. “The program was meant to introduce them not just to college-level work but specifically to Haverford-level work, so it was good hearing that it was a challenge and made them feel prepared.”

Chesick Scholar Luis Rivera agrees. The first in his family to attend college, Rivera was apprehensive about jumping into his freshman year. He says the program helped him to hone his study techniques. The summer courses were taught in the same style as regular term courses at Haverford, which meant they covered large quantities of material without the daily check-ins, like worksheets and quizzes, that Rivera remembers from high school.

“For the first time, the teacher wasn’t holding my hand,” he says. “What really helped me was getting to know the other students and working together.” While study groups at his high school were often unhelpful, Rivera found strength in studying as a group with his fellow Chesick Scholars.

“I felt like an adult for the first time in my life,” Rivera says. “[This experience] taught me that true adults are not independent, they are interdependent”

At the end of the summer session, the participants in each course presented their work. Students in Professor Tracey Hucks’ class on Uncle Tom’s Cabin presented publicly at a symposium on August 1. For outside visitors and faculty, these presentations signaled an auspicious start to the Chesick Scholars Program.

“People who came were bowled over by the poise and the incisiveness of what the students had to say,” Tecosky-Feldman says.

Chesick Scholar Ananda Coleman says the experience was also enlightening for her as a presenter.  “At first, it was nerve-wracking,” says Coleman, who wondered “What do I, as an undergrad who hasn’t even started college, have to say to them? “But once I started preparing, I realized how much I had learned in the class. I realized that every single person has something to contribute, no matter what their training.”

The John P. Chesick Scholars Program is designed to extend mentorship over the students’ four years at Haverford by matching every Chesick Scholar with a faculty member who will be their mentor for their entire undergraduate career. Scholars began working with their mentors at the end of the summer program to choose first-semester courses.

With a little extra training now under their belts, the Chesick Scholars are returning to campus for the school year. Like its first batch of Scholars, the program will launch into its freshman year, evolving and maturing as it becomes a firmly established part of the college.

More information on the Chesick Scholars Program can be found at: http://www.haverford.edu/chesick/

— Prarthana Jayaram ’10

Students cross in front of Founders Hall.

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