Kristen Fenwick

The inaugural class for Miami University’s Access Initiative in the fall of 2007 may arrive a day earlier than other first-year students, as part of the university’s Pre-First-Year Institute (FYI).

Originally, the Pre-FYI program was offered for all minority students, based on race. It allows them to move into residence halls a day earlier than the other first-year students and introduces them to peers from similar cultures and to the university’s available support systems. This year, Access Initiative students are encouraged to participate in Miami’s Pre-FYI program as well.

Miami’s Access Initiative, announced August 2006 by President David Hodge, said the university will provide tuition and fees to a number of academically qualified Ohio residents with a family income of less than $35,000.

As of the April 16 university senate meeting, Michael Stevenson, assistant to the president and associate provost, said that 250 students had applied and been accepted into the Access Initiative program – yet the number of those students who will choose to go to Miami is still undecided.

Social activities, tours of campus, and university convocation mark the beginning of the first-year experience at Miami University during the FYI, which occurs four days before fall semester classes start each year.

According to Carla Carick, the director of special student programs in the Office of Transition and Assessment, many of Miami’s access scholars are first-generation college students who may need help understanding how to navigate their university experience.

“Planning and preparing for college can be difficult for any student … for a first-generation student it can be even more so,” Carick said, via e-mail. “(We can help them by) identifying and discussing how to use university resources, presenting time management strategies, or introducing students to mentors who may offer insights and experiences that will help broaden their understanding of Miami University.”

Carick added that the Pre-FYI would address these issues, as well as provide opportunities for social networking.

The Pre-FYI is intended to help minority students as well by addressing similar issues, explained Eloiza Domingo-Snyder, director of the Office of Diverse Student Development.

“We help (minority students) address living on a predominantly white campus and we share great resources and opportunities with them so that if these students get on campus and they feel different from their peers, they know who they can go talk to,” Domingo-Snyder said. “Our research shows that our diverse populations on campus have a lower retention rate and graduation rate than our white student populations … so (we want to) attack the low graduation rates and retention rates.”

Miami junior Justin Wagner opposes the Pre-FYI program because he said it merely reinforces the already existing stereotypes at Miami.

“I think it’s ridiculous that minorities (and Access Initiative students) should have to come to campus earlier because it’s inferring that they’re not as fit or mentally intelligent enough to adapt to college,” Wagner said. “It’s not a question or whether or not it’s effective, it’s a question of whether or not it’s right.”Domingo-Snyder disagrees.

“I think there’s any number of opportunities for people to attach stereotypes to programs, or to say that by doing this or continuing to do this we’re singling out our diverse populations,” she said. “But we don’t feel that way.”

Domingo-Snyder also said that the Pre-FYI was in no way a replacement for the FYI program and that it was developed as a complement to it.

“Research shows that if you (engage) our first-year students in a successful manner, there is a higher likelihood of them sticking around and becoming a viable part of our community,” Domingo-Snyder said.