Inaugural Momentum Leadership Fellows Program kicking off this week

Ripon College’s inaugural Momentum Leadership Fellows Program launched Monday with 26 participating students and will run for three weeks up to the start of the regular fall semester. Momentum is a summer bridge to an academically enriching, community-minded and culturally diverse environment for highly qualified students from historically underrepresented and first-generation populations. The aim is to increase their opportunity to succeed.

This honors program is partially supported by a $275,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation and is scheduled to run for three years, including summer programs and additional leadership activities throughout the year.

“Participating students are high-achieving, first-generation college students,” says Nicholas Eastman, assistant professor of educational studies and Momentum coordinator. “As Momentum Leadership Fellows, they are part of a learning community who are involved in a leadership seminar with a course in the mornings, informational sessions in the afternoons and structured choice/fun activities in the evenings. There will be community service projects on both Saturdays.

“Over the course of the academic year, the students will continue to take Catalyst courses together and participate in various activities as a cohort. These activities are aimed at cultivating both academic and campus community leadership.”

According to Ripon’s grant application, bright students from poor high schools, even if admitted to schools of higher education, “rarely have access to the special opportunities monopolized by wealthy peers, such as honors programs, study abroad and summer research. Re-conceiving how liberal arts colleges define merit can address this injustice, directing high-impact opportunities to these students.

“Ripon College is well-suited to successfully introduce an honors program for under-served students. In 2017, our entering class was 41.2% Pell-eligible, 48.9% first generation, and 19% from underrepresented groups. We are among a tiny handful of national liberal arts colleges that consistently enroll and successfully graduate large numbers of low-income students; not only do we significantly outperform the graduation rates predicted by this profile, our Pell-eligible students graduate at higher levels than their campus peers.”

The Leadership Fellows Program is designed to advance diversity, inclusion and support for under-served constituencies at Ripon and nationally by “reorienting conversations about excellence, college readiness and achievement, modeling for other liberal arts colleges how to overcome the association of merit with wealth,” the application states.

The goals are to increase the number of low-income, first-generation and underrepresented students that Ripon enrolls and graduates; generate leaders who will be empowered to act as agents of change; encourage participants to engage in undergraduate research and other forms of student/ faculty intellectual inquiry; and prepare students for graduate school and competitive national scholarships.
(Photo: Nicholas Eastman, assistant professor of educational studies and Momentum coordinator, leads a session Tuesday.)

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