MENOMONIE — Whether attending a jump-start class together, building team skills on the ropes course or having a pizza break in the new Multicultural Student Services office at University of Wisconsin-Stout, Stoutward Bound scholars build a community together before school even starts.
“Stoutward Bound is an early-start bridge program for incoming first-year multicultural students,” said Mai Khou Xiong, interim executive director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and MSS director. “Coordinated through MSS, students join a unique, supportive living and learning community that prepares them for success and helps them transition from high school to college life,” she said.
Forty-two Stoutward Bound scholars moved into North Hall, their on-campus living community, on Aug. 21, two weeks before the start of the fall semester on Sept. 7.
During the two weeks, they attended workshops on study skills, time management, note-taking and effective reading strategies; learned about campus resources; and joined in events and activities.
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Within their learning community, the students are taking psychology and peace studies courses together. In the spring, they’ll have a speech class together as well.
First-year students Carner Carpio, a food science and technology major from Augusta; Sadie Conyers, a business administration major from Barron; Naan Fowler, an animation and digital media major from Cumberland; and Justina Long, an animation and digital media major from Cumberland, thought the early tour of campus, activities to meet staff and other students, and learning about different campus resources, like the financial aid office, were helpful.
“What’s been most helpful are the connections we’ve made, especially moving away from our family and friends,” Fowler said. “I like the diversity and living with people with shared experiences.”
When deciding on a college, Long wanted to stay close to home. “I was overwhelmed getting to know the campus, mentors, professors and the residence hall. The program helped me open up and start my college plan,” she said.
Alizabeth Candler, MSS assistant director, coordinates the Stoutward Bound program, provides support to scholars, assists them in navigating their transition to college, and creates a support structure for them on campus. She also works directly with Stoutward Bound mentors, who serve an important role as peer advisers.
“An integral objective of the program is community building,” Candler said. “Our peer mentors serve as a bridge, connecting our Stoutward Bound scholars to the resources they need through the MSS office. Our diverse staff offers our multicultural students insight into navigating higher education at a predominantly white institution.”
Among this year’s six mentors are Ariana Enciso, an applied social science major from Fond du Lac; Dung (Young) Ly, a business administration major from La Crosse; and Sade Parker, a game design and development-art major from Ladysmith.
Enciso, who also served as a TRIO Student Support Services mentor last year, enjoys supporting other students, whether finding resources for financial aid and scholarships, accessing transcripts or helping them make connections on campus.
Parker agreed, adding that she thinks one of her most important roles as a mentor is making sure Stoutward Bound students don’t make the same mistakes she did — to help them learn from her experiences.
Young hopes students can find a mentor who can help them break down the long-term benefits of their different courses or activities. He wants Stoutward Bound students to “be unique, creative and innovative in things they’re doing. They need to think outside the box now to stand out in the workforce when they graduate.”
Stoutward Bound is in its 15th year. MSS, newly located in Merle M. Price Commons, provides African American/Black, Asian American, Hispanic/Latinx, Native American, biracial and multiethnic students with academic, career, leadership, cultural, and personal support and development. MSS also provides a gathering space and opportunities for students to connect, talk, study and relax.
Students can also connect with multicultural student clubs, like Black Student Union, Native American Student Organization, Hmong Stout Student Organization and Latinos Unidos.