“The decision to participate in the Summer Program to Advance Leadership has been one of the best decisions that I have made so far. Not only was it an introduction to Lafayette but it allowed me to have a head start academically in this new place,” says Scarlett Jimenez ’15, a mechanical engineering major.
Summer Program to Advance Leadership (SPAL) is a comprehensive six-week program that exposes students to Lafayette and college courses. Students in the program take a math course and a writing course, participate in lab modules in the sciences and engineering, and visit local employers of scientists and engineers. They also get to meet the provost, the dean of the College, their class dean, other deans and staff, and many faculty members. Through the program students begin their career counseling, learn about study abroad, and find out about all the other academic opportunities available to them at Lafayette.
“We had the opportunity to meet personally with faculty from different departments,” says Jimenez, who hopes to one day work as an aeronautical engineer. “We also had great trips to see these science and engineering majors in action in different work places, such as a trip to Air Products.”
Chawne Kimber, associate professor of mathematics, serves as the director for SPAL. Tom Hill, professor of math, and Ethan Berkove, associate professor of math, have taught calculus in the program. Berkove and Elizabeth McMahon, professor of mathematics, have provided math modules on origami and the game of Set, respectively.
“The main goal of the program is to provide academic support for students from groups that are often underrepresented in science and engineering — women, minorities, and students who are the first in their families to go to college,” she says. “We approach this in a way that is different from other schools in that our program is not remedial. Instead, we teach students ways to become leaders in the classroom, in their majors, on campus and in the Easton community; then they ultimately will become leaders in their chosen professions.”
A total of 28 students (16 females and 12 males) have completed the program since it began in 2009. SPAL has had students from nine different states and from Puerto Rico.
It has shown good results in retention. Kimber says, “The program does better than the College overall for STEM majors with similar backgrounds. In particular, 26 of the 28 have remained at Lafayette and 24 of those 26 remained science or engineering majors.”
The students who have participated in SPAL have gone on to be EXCEL Scholars, tutors, writing associates, and resident advisers. The current presidents of Lafayette Environmental Awareness and Protection (LEAP) and Engineers Without Borders are both former SPAL students.
For Elizabeth Miller ’15 (East Stroudsburg, Pa.), SPAL provided her first real experience away from home.
“This summer was my first time ever being away from home for more than a few days without my parents and it definitely made my transition to living on campus much smoother than it would have been otherwise.” she says. “I made a really close group of friends during SPAL that I still see and hang out with daily. It was great coming into orientation and the fall semester already having a few friends; it just made everything so much easier and less intimidating.”
After she graduates, Miller would like to work for a non-profit organization specializing in either nature conservation or disease control and infectious diseases. She is considering joining the Peace Corps.