Last fall, University of Delaware faculty members Erin Brannick and Tanya Gressley welcomed the inaugural 30-member class to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) AGcelerate Program.
Funded through the President’s Diversity Initiative, the AGcelerate program is designed to foster a sense of community, to prepare students for academic success by giving them peer and faculty mentors, and to help them make important contacts in the real world to secure internships and promote career development.
“We just opened it up to freshmen this year and we have about 30 freshmen enrolled. We paired them all with peer mentors, so we have 22 peer mentors that are a part of it, also,” said Gressley, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS).
Brannick, assistant professor in the department, added that the program is “tailored for individual support. We have students that may want to be a part of this program for the tutoring that’s offered here on South Campus.”
Brannick added that group tutoring sessions are held once a week on Tuesdays, from 5-7 p.m. in 049 Townsend Hall.
In addition to tutoring, the students also get mentoring from peers and can request a faculty mentor, in addition to their regular faculty member adviser.
Brannick explained that the peer mentoring is more focused on having the freshmen learn the ropes of the University, while the faculty mentors help give the students career attention and career planning advice.
The program also brings resources directly to the students. For instance, Joyce Henderson, assistant director at the University’s Career Services Center, spoke to program members about opportunities available to them.
“We do a weekly discussion thread through our campus site that usually relates to either campus resources or to how students learn and study, giving tips and advice about any detailed support that they can share with each other,” said Brannick. She added that the group also has weekly prize giveaways, such as gift cards to bookstores or restaurants on Main Street, to encourage the students to contribute to the discussions.
In addition, Brannick said many of the students enjoy the fact that the group is close-knit. “The students have indicated that another major factor for them is just the friendships and that idea of camaraderie in the group and feeling like they have other people to go to when they need help, or knowing who to approach when they’re looking for assistance beyond what they can find on their own,” said Brannick.
The group also participates in off-campus excursions, such as going to Milburn Orchards in the fall, and in service learning activities, such as planting beach grass at the Delaware shore.
Gressley said the hope is that students who are taking the program as freshmen will come back and serve as peer mentors for the next group as they continue their college careers.
There are also funds allocated to “support travel to conferences and internships and in the future we hope to kind of team up a little bit to help get them internships in their fields,” said Gressley. “This year is predominantly about academic success but then as they mature, we want to get them to hit the ground running. Once they’re running, we’ll focus more on leadership skills and career building.”
Brannick added that the program is designed to “support students as they develop so it’s everything from hitting the ground running and finding everything that you need around campus to being successful and to wanting to stay at UD and at our college. And there is that next phase about how to develop themselves while they’re here to become leaders.”
The AGcelerate program is teaming up with Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) to host two booths at Ag Day on April 26 and they will host a MANRRS reunion panel on May 2 in the Townsend Hall commons from 11 a.m.-1 p.m., with a panel discussion from 11 a.m.-noon and lunch from noon-1 p.m.
AGcelerate has open enrollment and is open to CANR students in all fields of study.
Those interested in applying for the AGcelerate program should email the group at AGcelerate@udel.edu.
Article by Adam Thomas