Bucknell Community College Scholars Program: A life-changing opportunity

Sara Wilkerson, Contributing Writer

Overview of the Program

​BCCSP. To some people, this may simply be another acronym heard on campus, yet for many it is the reason why they are at the University.

The Bucknell Community College Scholars Program was founded in 2007 at the University in partnership with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation as an initiative to increase community college transfer admissions for four-year universities.

The BCCSP itself is comprised of six partnered community college institutions: Community College of Philadelphia (CCP), Garrett College of Maryland, Montgomery County Community College (MCCC), Harrisburg Area Community College (HACC), and Lehigh Carbon Community College (LCCC) and, most recently, Reading Area Community College.

Through these partnerships, the University enrolls a group of approximately 25-30 high-achieving community college scholar students in two six-week summer courses on campus between their first and second years of college. To be eligible to participate in the BCCSP summer program, students must have a 3.5 or higher GPA, as well as meet certain financial eligibility requirements.

Once the scholar completes the program and completes their associate degree at his or her respective community college, the scholar then applies for transfer admission. If the scholar is accepted by the University, they receive a full-tuition merit-based scholarship on junior status to complete a Bachelor’s degree. The scholarship covers four semesters’ worth of full-time courses at the University.


History of the Program


The primary BCCSP founders — former Vice President of Enrollment Services, Kurt Thiede, and Presidential Professor and Co-Chair of the Psychology Department, Dr. T. Joel Wade — spent three years developing the program before gaining additional help from the other co-founders — former Assistant Vice President for Enrollment Management and former Director of Partnerships Mark Davies and Interim Provost Dr. Robert Midkiff. The BCCSP founders worked with the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation for four years until University President John Bravman decided to continue the program with University funding.

We have had nearly 300 students in the program and have graduated almost all of them. President Bravman’s support in that last year of funding was crucial to the ongoing success of the program,” Provost Midkiff said.

Provost Midkiff elaborated further on the importance of the program’s presence on campus. “[BCCSP] matters because this program changes lives. It also changes the face of what it means to be a Bucknellian — the students who come to Bucknell via the program have different life experiences and bring different perspectives to campus and to the classroom. Bucknell has grown and developed as an institution because of this program.”

Dean Caro Mercado, Associate Dean of Admissions and Director of Partnerships serves as the Program Director of the BCCSP summer program and echoed Provost Midkiff’s remarks. “You [BCCSP scholars] present alternative perspectives that don’t necessarily jive with what a traditional student thinks and feels about the topic [in the classroom]. And so for me, that… enriches what this campus can provide,” Mercado said.

Professor of Psychology Dr. T. Joel Wade, one of the BCCSP founders, explains why he personally continues to be involved in the program, not only as one of the professors who teaches a BCCSP summer course, but also as Academic Director and a mentor to the students. “I was a first generation college student … So, I can think back to individuals, faculty members, teachers, etc. who have helped me. And it’s an opportunity for me to sort of pay it forward and help other people. That’s very, very rewarding because … it’s pretty clear that these people can flourish in [the Bucknell] environment so it’s an opportunity for me to help with that and nurture those students, and that feels good personally. And then professionally, it makes my job even more enjoyable,” Dr. Wade said.


Words from some scholars


Travis Arment ’18, a graduate student at the University, spoke about the dynamics between traditional University students and BCCSP students. “Although the BCCSP group is diverse and hails from a variety of community colleges, they often have the same goals as the average Bucknell student. Typical Bucknellians should never be afraid to approach BCCSP [transfer scholars], as both groups have much to learn from each other,” Arment said.

Learning from one another, as Arment articulates, is not limited to  traditional students and BCCSP students; the BCCSP is designed to have the transfer students learn from each other as well when they are taking classes during the summer.

Barb Thiel ’20, a transfer and non-traditional student from the Community College of Philadelphia, discussed the importance of learning amidst group dynamics. “… my cohort of 2017 was full of… young adults… with two older adults thrown in for good measure, yet I did not feel the age divide as much with them. Perhaps, this is the magic that is BCCSP, finding those like-minded souls, no matter the age, to offer such great opportunity to those who so badly need and want it,” Thiel said.

Aldaine Alphonse ’20, an international student originally from Haiti, believes that, due to the program, “I [grew] as a person. I have learned to accept that everyone has their stories, and everyone is different. This is our difference that made the students and the program so interesting. I learned something special about everyone in the program.”

“Personally, it [BCCSP] shaped me to think more of others,” Levi Wolf ’20, who previously attended LCCC, said.

The desire for the opportunity to pursue a higher education is not lost on any of the scholars who have been involved in the program. The value of the full-tuition merit-based scholarship is a significant factor in many of the scholars’ career plans.

Liutauras Repsys ’20 from Garrett College explains the importance of the scholarship squarely. Financial struggles would have stopped my education because I simply would have not been able to afford it. This program gives me an opportunity to receive an education, so that in the future I would be able to pursue my career,” Repsys said.

“It shows that even if you come from a background that may not favor an academic career, if you work hard, you can still do amazing things,” Cheyenne McKinley ’20, from LCCC, said.

The action of coming to the University can be a daunting task for the merit scholars, nonetheless because quantities of applications are always high. This fall, the University welcomed 17 newly transferred community college students to campus.

“My transition so far is one of the best experiences of my life. Even though [transitioning] is challenging because of the differences between [CCP]  and here, I believe that these challenges make this experience more important because it [takes] me out of my comfort zone,” Mauricio Ramirez ’20 said.

Luckily, when it comes to transitioning to the University, the BCCSP scholars are not matriculating without a support system. The faculty and staff involved in the program, as well as those faculty members who act as mentors and advisers to the scholars, all provide an immense support system for the scholars.

As the semester continues for BCCSP students, if there is one takeaway that should resonate with those still getting to know the program itself is that BCCSP, as Provost Midkiff previously stated, changes lives.

“I am eternally grateful to this program and I hope it continues forever in the history of the University,” Vitoria Ruozzi ’19 said, putting the program’s life changing importance in perspective.

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