Each spring, tens of thousands of college hopefuls receive the message they’ve been anxiously waiting for: the letter of admission. By then, students have received hundreds of emails and postcards from schools across the country and even across the world.
But then: silence.
“Normally, students accepted our offer of admission in the spring, and we did not actively engage with our new Scripps students again until New Student Programs and Orientation (NSPO). Our summer correspondence was focused on tasks necessary to get ready for that NSPO,” says Associate Dean of Faculty Jennifer Armstrong. “We realized this was a missed opportunity.”
“So we asked ourselves: How do we keep students connected with each other over the summer and also intentionally introduce them to the College and the faculty in a more robust way?” adds Director of Admission Laura Stratton. “Especially with social-distancing measures in place, we knew we wanted to find a creative way to bring campus to our newest students and keep them excited about their future at Scripps.”
A team of staff, student, and faculty representatives from the Offices of the Dean of Students, Admission, Dean of Faculty, Marketing and Communications, and the Laspa Center for Leadership did just that with the design and implementation of “Scripps This Summer” (STS), an ongoing slate of remote programming aimed at engaging with incoming students in a way that had never been done before at Scripps.
Organized into a weekly newsletter, STS programming included events, social media engagement opportunities, community-building sessions facilitated by faculty, campus traditions, campus resources, art competitions, Zoom social hours, and “Discover Scripps” content aimed at familiarizing incoming students with campus, alums, and the Scripps community. Programs and events were synchronous and asynchronous, enabling students to participate live or as they were able.
“As we started to plan and revise our driving principle, our motto was ‘say yes!’ So every idea that faculty and current students had to share their passions with our newest students was integrated into STS,” says Stratton. For example, returning students facilitated “virtual tea” every week and hosted a podcast with Q&A for incoming students. “These were forums where current and incoming students could cut loose without staff or faculty present,” she adds.
STS also included a full slate of faculty-designed programming: A coffee talk about the Supreme Court ruling on LGBTQA issues, a Spanish-practice lunch break, and a movie and conversation night, to name a few. Attendance for each event ranged from a few students to over 50. “We had 5–10 events going per week over an eight-week period. Students really engaged in what they wanted to when they were able to; we just wanted to offer a wide enough variety that students could engage at any level, whether just putting a Scripps sticker on their water bottle (STS also included plenty of official Scripps swag mailed to incoming students) to attending every event,” Stratton says.
Though the programming was diverse, each event was rooted in one of three pillars: academics, community, and class connection. “The ‘three pillars’ is how we’ve always framed orientation, so that’s how we framed Scripps This Summer—we wanted STS programming to flow into the start of the school year,” explains Stratton. “My hope is that our newest students feel connected to each other and to the faculty in a way that will make the fall semester distance experience as fruitful and enriching as it can be. And I’m incredibly proud of this program—there aren’t many times in a career when you get a charge to offer something totally new, and this team pulled it off.”
“By integrating this summer programming, we really wanted to give incoming students a window into Scripps, to help them feel like they’re Scripps students from the moment they were admitted,” Armstrong says. “We wanted to show those students who we are—to tell them our story and make them feel a part of it.”