Five years ago, the Lehigh University Student Scholar’s Institute was implemented to help first-generation, lower-income and otherwise underrepresented students make the transition to college life. Now the program, known as LUSSI, continues to enroll incoming first-year students and engage student alumni who can serve as mentors.
Incoming first-years apply for the program, which starts at the beginning of July, and are housed in dorms. They take traditionally structured classes such as calculus, English, theater, chemistry and economics. LUSSI students are even given homework, quizzes and final exams.
Although these classes are not for credit, they are required for LUSSI students to help them understand the difference in academic rigor between high school and Lehigh curricula.
Grace Enriquez, ’22, participated in the LUSSI program this summer and said she found it helpful in preparing for her first year at Lehigh.
“It definitely gave me a good idea of how I could manage my time and balance academics while still maintaining a social life,” Enriquez said.
LUSSI upperclassmen are also involved in the program as summer support guides, teaching assistants and Gryphons, which gives LUSSI underclassmen the opportunity to form a network of support before the fall semester begins.
In addition to classes, LUSSI students participate in weekend activities like ropes courses and scavenger hunts to get to know Lehigh’s culture and resources. This summer, LUSSI students also spent a full day at Lake Nockamixon, where they participated in yoga, kayaking, canoeing and stress management sessions.
“We’re trying to wrap support around, so that the students have all the possible things they need in order to be successful,” said George White, the director of the Office for Diversity, Inclusion and Equity.
Each year, more students participate in LUSSI. White said 37 students participated this year compared to 30 in 2017. Program administrators also record data on LUSSI students’ graduation and retention rates, which have increased throughout the years.
Tiffany Pang, ’22, is from Hawaii and had never been away from home for such an extended period of time before participating in LUSSI. However, Pang said her involvement in LUSSI helped ease her fears.
“After building these relationships, I was able to feel more comfortable at school since I know more people and could seek them out if I need help or anything,” Pang said.
Although the LUSSI program formally ends in late July, LUSSI students are required to participate in follow-up programs to stay connected. Mentor Collective, also run by the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity, gives upperclassmen the opportunity to act as mentors for first-year students.
“(The) ultimate goal is to ensure that every student has an equitable opportunity,” White said. “Not the same opportunity, but they all have whatever they need in order to be successful, and that we are working actively to create an inclusive learning environment so that no matter what race, color, creed or socioeconomic background you come from, you feel like Lehigh is a home for you.”