Project Success serves expanded group of 72 new students

August 31, 2010

It takes teamwork to be successful.

That's part of the message more than 70 Indiana State University freshmen heard during Project Success. Now in its second year, the program brings participating students to campus one week before the start of the fall semester to help them learn what it takes to be successful in college and to complete a four-year degree.

"It's good stuff," Wilson Smith, a communication major from Noblesville said of the five-day program that included classes, mentoring activities and team building exercises. "They've got some really neat classes that should help me out with my organizational skills. I'll be alongside every other lost freshman but I'll be able to help out, you know, let people know where things are instead of just fumbling around myself."

Which is the point, according to Project Success officials.

"We're trying to develop them into being leaders of Indiana State University," said Jason Winkle, associate dean of the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services and Project Success director. "We focus on three primary areas: skills in the classroom, or study skills, leadership skills, or life skills, and we focus on people skills."

ISU's Division of Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications launched Project Success last year with a pilot program serving 31 students in response to a call from university President Dan Bradley to develop programs to help improve student retention and boost graduation rates.

"Students that are successful in college are the ones that don't just focus only on academics. That's a key piece, but you also need to get involved," Winkle said. "In Project Success, we try to fast-track them into knowing what's available at Indiana State University, what options they have and who they need to talk to get involved. We also focus on building support networks for them at the administrative level, at the faculty level, at the staff level, and also with their peers."

Project Success even has a campus "mom," to help students adjust to being on their own.

"I lived on campus with these kids 24/7," said Jodi Bondy, real-life mom to an ISU sophomore and parent volunteer during the five-day program.

"You're at college now but you're not in college yet," Bondy told students when they first hit campus. "They don't know what it means to be in college. I'm that little connection to home so that if they need something - if they cut their foot or if they are homesick - then I am the one that's there to kind of make that connection but then also help to push them on to do what they need to do when they start school."

A classroom teacher for 16 years, Bondy has overseen similar programs at other universities and is passionate about helping students get off to a good start in college.

"You think that the kids that go to college are the good students and they know everything. Having taught high school, I can tell you students do not know how to study. In high school, they don't have to know how to study; we still give them everything they need; we still baby them too much," she said. "Part of what this program does is show them how to use the tools that maybe they've been given but they have never used. How do I learn to study? How do I learn to talk to a professor? Is it OK to fail?"

Bondy assures students it is OK to fail as long as they learn from their failures and continue to work toward completing their degree.

"Every crisis that you have in your life is really an opportunity to learn and grow," she said.
After four days of classroom and mentoring sessions, Project Success students traveled to the ISU Field Campus near Brazil for a day of team-building exercises in the great outdoors.

They were divided into teams, provided with cardboard, box cutters, duct tape and marking pens and challenged to build boats that would float - yes, cardboard boats that would float. Some of watercraft that resulted from the exercise were little more than rafts. Others were more elaborate vessels.

The boats were judged on categories ranging from seaworthiness to school spirit. A boat that proudly proclaimed "Trees earn degrees," written in Sycamore blue, was judged the winner in the school spirit category.

While none of the boats stayed afloat for the entire length of the pond, Project Success students judged their overall experience a - well, a success.

The teambuilding exercises at the Field Campus "show us everybody's personalities and how we each have to help each other to get what we need to get done," said Kyley Brown, a nursing major from Greencastle.

Brown also appreciated the opportunity to meet and work with professors, staff, administrators and other students before classes began.

"I'm just less nervous and I know my way around campus more. I've met a lot of people so if I need any more help I can always ask the people who have been here. It has helped a lot to get to know where everything is so I don't have to stress as much about where my classes are," she said.

"Project Success fast-tracks these students on understanding what we're trying to do with experiential learning. We're trying to nurture and develop these young men and women into the future leaders of ISU," said Winkle.

"I can't wait to come back in 2014 and watch them walk across the stage and receive their diplomas," said Bondy.

Photos: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Project-Success-Retreat-2010/DSC7343ProjectSuccess/975338558_GADTE-L.jpg - Indiana State University freshmen launch cardboard boats on a pond at the ISU Field Campus near Brazil. The students made the boats as part of a team-building exercise during the final day of "Project Success," a five-day initiative aimed at helping the new students develop the skills needed to be successful in college. (ISU/Kara Berchem)
http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Events/Project-Success-Retreat-2010/DSC7077ProjectSuccess/975332876_QEmwd-L.jpg - Some of the 72 incoming freshmen who took part in Indiana State University's Project Success work to construct a cardboard boat during a teambuilding exercise at the ISU Field Campus. (ISU/Kara Berchem)

Contact: Jason Winkle, director, Project Success, and associate dean, College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services, Indiana State University, 812-237-4053 or jason.winkle@indstate.edu

Writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu