Wednesday, February 21, 2001

Program at UC steers blacks toward degrees

Focus of Transitions on trimming frosh attrition

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        When black seniors at the University of Cincinnati pass symbolic torches of success Friday night, recipients will be under uncommon scrutiny.

        They are the first students to participate in UC's Transitions program, designed to reduce attrition among black freshmen. Success will be judged in September when survivors of freshman rigors return as sophomores.

        So far, all 45 participants who started last September are still in school; and that's part of what is being celebrated at Friday's Red, Black, Green and Gold Ball at the Albert B. Sabin Convention Center, downtown.

        “I think I would have been able to make it, but Transitions gave me an extra boost,” said Abigail Conway, 19, a pre-med student from College Hill.

        That's exactly what Transitions staff wants to hear.

        Eric Abercrumbie, director of the sponsoring African American Cultural and Research Center, said Transitions will be “more than successful” if participants beat the averages.

        Transitions responds to annual UC freshman losses from 1989 through 1998:

        • In such selective-admissions colleges as Arts and Sciences, 35.7 percent of the black freshmen didn't return the following fall (26.2 per cent for all students).

        • In University College and other open-access colleges, 45.7 per cent of the black freshmen didn't return for sophomore years (40.4 per cent for all students).

        No one knows how many of those missing students transferred or eventually returned to UC, but those statistics were suf ficient to focus Dr. Abercrumbie's broader support for all black students on freshmen.

        In 2000, supported by a Success Challenge grant from the Ohio Board of Regents, the African American center screened dozens of entering freshmen who responded to mailings about the new program.

        Transitions boss Stacy Downing, who also is assistant director of the center, said participants share networks of like-minded classmates, trustworthy and campus-savvy adults, student mentors, study sessions, community-service activities and programs on how to succeed in college.

        “Sit up front and center,” is the advice most valued by Vondell Caldwell, a Hughes Center High School grad majoring in chemical-engineering technology at the College of Applied Sciences. “Let the professor see you and get to know you.”

        Dr. Abercrumbie said other urban universities around Ohio have programs to retain black freshmen and that Transitions complements other UC efforts to reduce overall first-year attrition.


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