This weekend, members of the first co-enrollment class at William & Mary will graduate. While the assignments they had to complete to get here may not have been easy, administrators hope the co-enrollment program did ease their transition from Virginia community colleges to the four-year curriculum at William & Mary. Easing that transition is, in fact, the initiative’s primary goal.
“Co-enrollment is an exciting and important program that attracts a diverse group of community college students to the College and helps them succeed once they are here by offering them the opportunity to experience William & Mary firsthand before they transfer," said Susan Peterson, dean of undergraduate studies.
Since the fall of 2006 the college has matriculated 70 students from Virginia community colleges through this program, thirteen co-enrollees are scheduled to receive bachelor’s degrees Sunday at the college’s May 17 Commencement.
The program is targeted to non-traditional students coming to William & Mary later in their academic careers. This sample of William & Mary academics gives students an opportunity to test whether the college is a good fit and gets them academically acclimated before making the commitment to the four-year curriculum.
“It’s a ‘toe in the water’,” said Sara L. Marchello, university registrar.
The program, unique to William & Mary, brings students to the college from five different community colleges across the state, Thomas Nelson; Tidewater; J. Sergeant Reynolds; Northern Virginia and Rappahannock, as well as Richard Bland junior college.
“There isn’t anything currently like it; that we are aware of, in the state,” said Earl Granger, associate provost for enrollment and admissions. This really has really put William & Mary on the cutting edge … co-enrollment is an innovative approach.”
The community colleges identify students for the program that allows them to take five classes at the college toward their community college associate’s degree. The number of co-enrollees is capped at 15 from each of the participating community colleges. Matriculation to William & Mary’s bachelor degree programs only if the student meets the academic and program requirements set-forth by agreements reached with each community college.
Already the program has opened many doors.
“It’s been a very good experience for me. I never dreamed of coming to William & Mary, it wasn’t even on my radar… I was scared when I first got here but now I know I have done this, and if I can do it – you can do it. My confidence in myself is much stronger. But, I knew I had something to contribute to this campus and I think I have and I’ve learned a lot too,” said Terry Stacey, one of this year’s co-enrollment graduates.
In addition to Stacey, program participants scheduled to graduate include Benjamin Bland, Joell Christondonte, Kelly Delaney, Amy Derby, Stephanie Done, Ian McCrimmon, Angela Osborne, Patricia Parr, Laura Villarreal, Catherine Sayle, Teresa Stacey, Blanca Tyler and Thomas Weidinger.
The co-enrollees noted the campus community couldn’t have been more welcoming.
“The minute I came to William & Mary I thought I was going to be an outsider, and everybody – professors especially but students as well - would help me if ever I needed help, they just jumped right in there,” said Parr.
While the initiative is still in its infancy, the program is showing early signs of success.
“I think how I feel now is that I feel stronger, because I feel like I can do – I have done it. I was scared when I first got here but now I know I have done this, and if I can do it – you can do it. My confidence in myself is much stronger. But, I knew I had something to contribute to this campus and I think I have and I’ve learned a lot too,” noted Stacey.
The students see the growth beyond the classroom as well.
“It’s really been an encouragement for my children because they see mom sacrificing and doing what it takes to reach that next level. My son has already said, ‘Well, I’m going to William & Mary.’ They both know, ‘We’re going to college.’ They know if my mom has a bachelors then that means that I have to have a bachelors,” said Osborne.
While true measure of the long-term success of the program may have to wait a few years, some successes are already clear.
“So we think it definitely is moving in the right direction. We are excited, we are elated that the first group has come through but we also hope to learn from their experiences here at the college,” said Granger.