Summer at University Park: LEAP and iLEAP

Yaw Agawu-Kakraba is the director of Penn State’s Office for Summer Session. He oversees LEAP and iLEAP, two summer programs for new first-year students at University Park. He shared the following information with us about these unique opportunities:

When my daughter left home a couple of years ago to begin her college career, different emotions overwhelmed me. On the one hand, I was proud of her, excited and hopeful that she was going to be successful in her new academic and social environment. On the other hand, however, I was worried about how she was going to navigate the challenges that come with transitioning from high school to college.

Some experience transitions as a crisis while others regard them as events that could either occur or not. Regardless of how people consider transitions, they present unique challenges along with opportunities for growth and transformation. To a large extent, my ruminations about my daughter’s departure centered on the wish that her transition from high school to college would present her with the chance to grow and to be transformed by her new environment.

Having opted to go to another institution instead of Penn State, I wondered how she was going to cope in a college that did not have a program such as Penn State’s flagship Learning Edge Academic Program (LEAP) that is designed to support and prepare students for their first full-time undergraduate semester in a large complex university with over forty thousand students.

Started in 1996, the LEAP program as well its international component, iLEAP, which was introduced in 2009, promote active collaborative learning on the part of students when they enroll in two small, linked classes such as English 15 (composition) and CAS 100 (public speaking). The courses offered in both programs are a part of the General Education curriculum and are suitable for all students irrespective of their colleges or academic interests.

There are 50 prides in the LEAP and iLEAP programs.  Each pride consists of two three-or-four credit courses with the same cohort of up to 25 students (18 for iLEAP) who not only live together in the same dorms but are also enrolled in the same classes. In addition, each pride is assigned two instructors, one for each course, a librarian who helps students  develop research skills and utilize the university’s print and electronic resources, and a student mentor who provides academic and social support to assist students in the transition process.

LEAP and iLEAP foster a better living/learning community for students entering the new environment of a large university, offer practical skills and familiarity with the available resources necessary to succeed at Penn State, and enable students to engage more deeply with a body of knowledge through integrated courses that allows them to achieve at higher levels.

Most of the more than 10,000 students who have experienced LEAP and iLEAP attest to the fact the programs empower students to take responsibility for their own learning.  The active learning opportunities that these programs offer encourage students to work productively as members of a team through collaborative learning opportunities. Indeed, it is the testimonies of “Leapers”— students who have participated in the LEAP program — that signal to me and my staff that our program offers them the opportunity to grow and to transform within the larger Penn State community

– Yaw Agawu-Kakraba, Director, Office for Summer Session

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