When Jonathan Goodell (PKS Class of 2011) arrived to campus as a freshman Scholar, he quickly began to look up to an upperclassmen Scholar, Ian Carroll (PKS Class of 2009). For Goodell, Carroll became a powerful mentor who modeled what it meant to be an engaged Scholar and what it looked like to live out the program philosophy of “Excellence in Scholarship, Leadership, and Service.”
A few years later after Goodell became an upperclassman himself, he started to consider the impact he himself could make on the incoming class of Scholars. Along with a few of his PK classmates, Lina Nguyen and Mitchell Keogh, Goodell developed an idea for a formal peer mentorship program within the Powers-Knapp Scholarship Program. After a few strategic planning meetings with program staff, the PKS Big Sibling Initiative was officially launched in Fall 2013.
Now, every incoming Scholar has been matched with a PKS Big Sibling from the junior or senior class. The purpose of the initiative is simple: to support the freshman transition to campus through positive individual relationships with fellow Scholars. Scholar sibling pairs connect during program meetings, grab coffee together, or just answer questions from time to time via text message. A steering committee of PKS upperclassmen also helps plan events for fellow PKS Scholars to attend with their siblings. Events this past year have included high ropes course excursions and a PKS Networking Dinner with Scholars and local alumni.
So far, the formal peer-to-peer relationships have had a positive impact on the college transition for Scholars. Olivia Alston (PKS Class of 2014) found her PKS Big Sibling, Sangay Sirleaf, to be a critical support system during her freshman year. Alston reflects, “The adjustment to college life was more difficult than I thought it would be. I was homesick, felt isolated as a minority student, and was struggling to stay focused while dealing with these feelings.” However, Alston continued, “Being paired with Sangay was the best thing that happened to me my freshman year. Sangay not only became one of my closest friends, but was a mentor and a guide through this difficult change.”
With the help of the PKS Big Sibling Initiative, Powers-Knapp Scholars have begun to make new and fruitful connections with Scholars outside of their class year. We are sure that the strengthened “PKS Family” bond will carry over into the CS/PKS Alumni Communities in the years to come.
Chicago Alumni Community Welcomes Incoming Scholars
Timothy Leonard (CS Class of 2004) says he owes much to the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program, which is why he didn’t hesitate to help the Chicago CS/PKS Alumni Community with organizing the first-ever “Chicago Send-Off” for incoming Scholars from the Chicagoland area that took place in July.
Mercile Lee would have been proud to see the “mingling” that took place at the send-off. “To be in front of a crowd and see new Scholars, alumni and parents interacting, chatting and laughing was a real treat,” Leonard reflected. “The moment the decibel level from all the conversations overtook the music was extremely rewarding.”
The event included a classic Chicago Portillo’s meal, along with plenty of fun activities to promote interaction. Incoming Scholars were tasked with the job of decorating “mailboxes” that alumni stuffed with tidbits of advice about college life in Madison. The group also enjoyed playing some Badger Trivia, fueled by Phong Luu’s (PKS Class of 2006) extensive knowledge from his past life as a campus tour guide. Of course, the event was finished off with the ceremonial singing of “Varsity.”
Leonard drew inspiration from his fellow Chicago CS/PKS Alumni Community members when deciding to lead the planning for the event. He credits active alumni community members like Anh Lee (CS Class of 1996) and Caitlin Gath (CS Class of 2006) for inspiring him to elevate his own participation. The event itself was a testament to the generosity of the Chicago Alumni Community members, who donated money to help fund the entire event for incoming Scholars and their families. Leonard hopes that this event will inspire the Chicago Alumni Community to continue to host similar events and activities in the future.