Summer Scholars Transfer Institute Life-Changing Experience
By: Casey Jones
When I first heard the words “Your dean has recommended you for a special program” I wasn’t sure whether that was good or bad news. Such was my plight as I sat in the office of the administrator overseeing the program at Rio Hondo College in Whittier this past spring as he pitched me on the virtues of teaching in the Summer Scholars Transfer Institute (SSTI).
SSTI is a long-established program held in partnership with Santa Ana College and UC Irvine. The program offers students the opportunity to complete a 16-week course in 10 days while living in the dorms. For students with jobs, young children, and family responsibilities this is a golden opportunity to have a true college experience while completing a transferable class in record time.
As an adjunct speech instructor, it sounded like the chance to squeeze in one more summer section, and with words like “transformative” and “game-changing” used to describe the program, what could go wrong? As it happened not a thing.
What an amazing experience!
SSTI did offer something transformative and not just for the students. I lived in the dorms (major flashback!), ate in the cafeteria, spent time in the study room, and was astounded by the progress students made in such a short amount of time. Students morphed into poised, well-prepared, college ready young adults right before my very eyes.
The time I spent at SSTI also gave me the chance to experience what happens to students and how they adapt the learning in context once they leave the classroom. It was one lightbulb moment after another spending time in the nightly study room, sometimes into the early morning hours, working with students on research and writing assignments. The bar in my classes is high, and yet there was room to keep pushing them to reach beyond their own expectations and my own.
On a more personal note, I am the quintessential freeway flyer, teaching at multiple colleges, and making the rounds. What a gift it was to have a cohesive colleague experience for those 10 days. The camaraderie at SSTI with fellow instructors, administrators, teaching assistants, and the amazing counselors, was a reminder that being involved in on-campus activities with other instructors isn’t just good marketing, it’s more fun!
I can’t encourage you enough to take advantage of teaching opportunities like SSTI. Was it intense? Oh, my yes! However, leaving my own life behind for those 10 days allowed me to focus on student outcomes in an entirely new, creative way. That experience has already positively affected my approach to the fall semester. In fact, I might even go as far as to say that teaching at SSTI was a transformative game-changer.
Casey Jones is an adjunct professor who teaches communications & languages at Rio Hondo College.
The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FACCC or other board members. The FACCC blog is open to FACCC members and invited guests who desire to spark discussion and dialogue on issues critical to community college faculty.