By Myriam Dijck
It was reality for Rita Serghis and David Banfro - but they weren’tjust flown out to the US on a free holiday. Together with other Kingston students and staff, they visited the University of North Carolina (UNC) to learn more about supporting students and how to improve the schemes at Kingston.
Mr Banfro, a first year business and sport science student,said: “They wanted us to go over there and see what kind of programme they were doing there, because they have the same kind of diversity that Kingston has.
“A lot of the stuff they do was student-lead. So students do a lot of the classes and a lot of workshops and they really take the lead. It is not as if the teacher says ‘okay, now we are going to do this, this and this, I need one or two to do it for us’. They just do it themselves and that is very impressive,” he said.
Kingston prides itself with having abroad and diverse student body, especially from ethic minority groups. At Kingston there are many students who are the first of their family to go into higher education at all. However, getting through university can be tougher for those students.
“Some research had been done showing that minority students in particular black students are performing worse in comparison to white students at Kingston,” said Rita,21,a second year international relations with history student.
She herself went to state schools and is the first inher family to go to university. “I had no concept of what studying was, prior to just beforegoing touniversity. I just didn’t get it,” she said.
Bridging the gap
The trip to UNCwas part of a study trip organised by the Academic Development Centre to learn from other universities. UNC,a partner university, shares the kind of diversity Kingston has.
“They had the same issue that Hispanic and black students were performing worse compared to white students," said Rita.
"They managed to bridge that gap, so that was the main point of Charlotte, to see how they did it, and to see their student support programmesso we can develop our own here."
Rita added: “They have several student mentoring programmes according to different categories. They have peer tutoring, general peer tutoring and then they have subject specific peer tutoring. There was just so much.”
Developing new programmes
Kingston is now looking into plans based on the experiences of Ms Serghis, Mr Banfroand thethree other studentswho went to Charlottethis September. Michael Hill, directorof the Academic Development Centre, said their findings are helping them at the development of two major initiatives.
He said: “One is the pre-entry summer school which we are at present developing and which will use KU undergraduates and postgraduates to work with prospective students before they join the university.
“The second initiative is an Academic Mentoring programme in which 1000 first year students will be mentored by second year students,”Michael said.