Northern Michigan University has launched a new Aspire Summer Bridge & Scholars Program designed to help select incoming freshmen make a successful transition to college by jumpstarting their education before the fall semester. The 20 participants earn four free college credits through a hybrid Native American experience course that included four weeks of online instruction followed by a one-week on-campus experience, which began on Wednesday. They moved into their residence halls early at no additional charge, received their laptops and had their orientation fees waived.
Aspire allows first-generation students and those with financial or academic challenges to start their academic journey sooner, said Jeff Korpi, associate vice president of the Northern Student Experience.
“Nine days prior to the official move-in date, they're able to get settled on campus, learn more about the local Native American culture through their final course work, and explore both NMU and the city of Marquette. This week also includes time for field trips, leadership trainings, a service project and team-building activities, which will help them establish important connections before the semester begins. We hope that by gaining early insight on college life, they will be better equipped for academic success."
The 20 freshmen hail from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Activities this week have included a plant identification class, Feeding America service project, Native American moccasin dice and two-sided dice games, and a Marquette history shoreline walking tour. The group will travel to Mackinac Island this weekend for the NMU Arts & Athletics Showcase. Remaining events after they return include an Indigenous history bus tour Monday morning, and a sustainability walking tour and sports science presentation on campus, both Tuesday morning.
“The Aspire program is funded by an anonymous donor who gave faculty, staff and students the trust needed for us to develop a high-quality bridge program to test out ways in which NMU can improve its connections to students and our ability to increase student retention,” said Joe Lubig, Center for Native American Studies department head and associate dean of the School of Education, Leadership & Public Service. “The first-year students who chose to do this are amazing. They have jumped right in with the coursework, mentoring sessions and service activities. It has been inspiring to see these students who took a chance on this new program come together and rally around its purpose. NMU faculty and staff are excited to get feedback from this first Aspire group so we can modify and improve the program for future Aspire cohorts.”
Seven current NMU students who completed the Student Leader Fellowship Program will mentor the new freshmen, who in turn will be encouraged to mentor future Aspire participants.