Purdue Summer Start Program is Honored with Students in Transition Award

(WEST LAFAYETTE) – Last July, when John Gipson stood in the hot Indiana sun greeting new Summer Start students and their families, he knew Purdue University was doing everything possible to keep students safe as the university relaunched in-person learning.

Gipson, director of Summer Session, also knew Purdue was continuing its commitment for Summer Start students to be successful in the classroom and beyond by offering additional academic counseling, success coaches and resources to promote their academic achievement.

And now, all that work has received significant recognition, as Purdue – because of its Summer Start program – was recently named one of two recipients of the 2020 John N. Gardner Institutional Excellence for Students in Transition Award from the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition. The award is given to institutions that have designed and implemented outstanding collaborative initiatives to enhance student success during the undergraduate experience.

Makayla Colby, a junior in the College of Education and a mentor in the Summer Start program, places welcome materials in a residence hall room for incoming Summer Start students. Summer Start was named one of the recipients of the 2020 John N. Gardner Institutional Excellence for Students in Transition Award. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)

Summer Start is a direct-admit program created in 2015 by Purdue President Mitch Daniels to expand access to a Purdue education, especially among lower-income, first-generation and minority students who fell just short in the admissions process but are otherwise qualified to succeed at Purdue. More than 71% of students in the 2020 cohort are from Indiana, and one in five are underrepresented minority students. 

Since its inception, Summer Start has given 850 students the opportunity of a Purdue education they otherwise would have been denied. The first Summer Start students graduated in May 2020, and rising cohorts are on track to do the same at a rate comparable to their peers. Nearly 9% of the Summer Start students who entered Purdue in 2016 graduated in less than four years.

Christian Nichols, a junior in the College of Science and a mentor in Purdue University’s Summer Start program, arranges welcome materials for incoming students. Summer Start was named one of the recipients of the 2020 John N. Gardner Institutional Excellence for Students in Transition Award. (Purdue University photo/John Underwood)

“Our Summer Start team has earned this high honor by opening a Purdue education to hundreds of minority and low-income students,” Daniels said. “The results they’ve achieved more than justify the increased resources we expect to invest in this proven program.”

Jay Akridge, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs and diversity, said, “We are continually looking for ways to expand access to a Purdue education, and watching our faculty and staff working together to continually improve this important program and the overall student experience is our university at its finest. The Summer Start team has worked tirelessly developing and enhancing the program, and building relationships between Purdue staff and faculty and the students is essential to their academic success.”

This award is the second major honor for the program. It was the recipient of NASPA’s Student Affairs Partnering with Academic Affairs Promising Practices Award in spring 2020.

“Summer Start is one of the most innovative student support and access programs in higher education,” said Gipson, who has worked with the program since 2017.

Gipson sees the Summer Start students as one large extended family. Students sign up to be mentors for incoming freshmen, become friends in their learning communities and give back to the program in a variety of ways.

“If our campus did not come together to support Purdue’s land-grant mission, this program would not be possible,” Gipson said. “While a lot of attention is given to the first summer of Summer Start, key student support collaborations continue throughout one’s time at Purdue.”

Information Matthew Oates, oatesw@purdue.edu.