Retention and Student Success started an initiative in 2017 called The Pre-Collegiate Program. Now, it’s a fully independent office, and is called College Readiness: Transition Engage Achieve Mentor— CORE TEAM for short.
Director of the CORE TEAM MaKesha Harris Lee said the office focuses on helping incoming freshmen and transfer students with their transition to SIUE.
“We do college prep and readiness sessions, and we bring SIUE members [to participating high schools] to present to those students about what it all means. We teach about filling out the FAFSA, and we check nontraditional topics, like how African-American students’ hairstyles can affect the admissions process. They can also come to the main campus of SIUE and attend a career fair, and get exposure to it all and get a tour,'' Harris Lee said. “It’s all a part of getting familiar with the campus and learning about college, and getting resources to use.”
CORE TEAM Program Coordinator Fannie Acoff said she has watched the CORE TEAM grow since its start, and is happy to be a part of Harris Lee’s team.
“I came from Admissions, and I had a working network with Collinsville High School. Dr. Harris had the [SIUE East St. Louis Charter High School], and she wanted to add more schools. I said we should add Collinsville High, because we have a lot of those students and the school is very open to collaborations,” Acoff said. “And she wanted to continue to grow and asked for other high schools to grow to, and I said Alton High was in need of this.”
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Acoff said the office was unable to finalize their partnership with Alton High.
“COVID stopped our talks, and we weren't able to get things up and running. We’re still interested in partnering with them in the future, and we hope to do so as soon as we can,” Acoff said.
The pandemic also changed the way the CORE TEAM operated over Summer 2020. According to Harris Lee, the CORE TEAM started an initiative in 2019 called the Summer Success Programs, where incoming freshmen could come to campus five weeks early, and complete a class. Harris Lee said it was designed to give students an early look at campus life, but Harris-Lee said the pandemic hurt their enrollment numbers this year.
“We still wanted to do it again this summer, and we had about 60 students apply. After [the pandemic hit], we only had 48. The whole point was bringing students on campus to get the experience and get through a class early, and with COVID, we could either not do it, or just do it online. Eventually, I made the call to do it virtually. I felt bad because it wasn’t supposed to be that way, and it wasn’t what we promised those students,” Harris Lee said. “We only had 14 kids in the end, and they all did very well. I was nervous because I had heard about other programs that canceled, or [went online and] had participation issues. We didn’t. It went well, and we are looking to do it online again and have 50 participants.”
Director of Retention and Student Success Geoffrey Edwards said he expected his office to work closely with the CORE TEAM in the future.
“I think, from the lens of Student Success, I’m excited about the CORE TEAM and how their program has developed to strengthen the transition for students going to SIUE. We need to help them academically, to the point where they've [enrolled]. What Dr. Harris has done is brought that forward,” Edwards said. “Regardless of if they will make a decision to come here, they're engaging with us and feeling like we have their issues and problems on our radar, and if students come here for the Summer Success Program, they’re much more likely to come here.”