Staying at Colgate for one last summer, Manuel (Manny) Heredia-Santoyo ’14 wanted to bring to the Summer Institute what he learned through his own experience. For five weeks, Heredia-Santoyo lived, ate, took classes, and shared stories with 13 incoming students. As a residential academic coach (RAC), he was a role model in every sense of the word.
Run by the Office of Undergraduate Studies (OUS), the Summer Institute is designed to ease the transition into college and enhance academic preparedness for first-year students.
Heredia-Santoyo was joined by five other dedicated RACs who each led a group of incoming first-years: Christelle Boursiquot ’15, Victoria Linney ’15, Ashley Brekke ’16, Cyierra Roldan ’16, and Aishwarya (Ash) Teegala ’16.
The RACs “are superstar students who use different approaches to be leaders on campus and be involved in the community,” said Frank Frey, director of the OUS. “They show incoming students that there isn’t a singular type to do well in school.”
Frey, who is also associate professor of biology and environmental studies, facilitated the Summer Institute with Frank Kuan, senior associate director, and coordinator Fareeza Islam ’14.
The Summer Institute accepted 39 participants this year. Prior to Colgate, the students took rigorous courses at their high schools, excelled academically, and demonstrated creativity and intellect. They’ve also shown determination in spite of personal, economic, and social challenges.
“With the obstacles that they’ve had to face and the experiences they’ve already gone through, a lot of these students have already lived a lifetime,” said Heredia-Santoyo, who was an RAC this year for the second time.
He and his group took two demanding classes, Literatures of Oppression with Professor Jeffrey Spires and Biology and Human Development with Professor Jason Meyers. The 200-level classes are challenging and, because they are squeezed into five weeks, demand more of the students than classes taken during the school year. Students are also introduced early to campus resources, including the libraries and career services.
“The OUS program provides them with everything they need to be successful here, have the best experience that they possibly can, and the resources that allow them to take advantage of everything that Colgate has to offer,” said Heredia-Santoyo.
The RAC staff is typically composed of returning students so that they can continue their mentoring relationships throughout the academic year. Even though Heredia-Santoyo has graduated, he was brought on for another summer because he was such a strong candidate and fantastic role model, said Frey.
Anika Rutah ’18, a student in Heredia-Santoyo and Brekke’s group, has already experienced the benefits of the institute.
“Our RACs have been helpful in showing us the ropes and teaching us things — like how to deal with stress, to surround yourself with people who care about you, and to do things you enjoy — that as [first-years] we probably would have learned the hard way,” she said. “Manny took the time to listen to us and help us sort out our problems.”