Trading Sand and Sun for Scholarship

Each summer, Pace brings an exceptional group of high school students to get a taste of college life in the big city through two separate programs.

Summer Scholars Institute

Wouldn’t it be great if prospective college students could get a taste of college life and “try on” a major before committing to a school? Pace allows rising juniors and seniors in high school experience what Professor Christopher Malone, PhD, calls “college on training wheels” in the Pace Summer Scholars Institute. Incoming students choose from one of ten “majors” for their two-week stay, live in dorms, and are mentored and supervised by current Pace students.

“This is a chance not only for high school kids to meet other high school kids, but to see what a successful college student looks like,” says Malone, the program’s director. “On the Pace side, [students] become role models.”

Now in its twelfth year, the Summer Scholars Institute was established by former Provost Geoffrey Brackett, DPhil (Oxon.). The then-English professor designed a one-week program specifically for students to take classes in literature.

In 2005, Professor Malone assumed the role of director and added a range of majors, including theater arts, sciences, political science, and more. “I didn’t want it to remain a small, boutique English program,” he says. “I wanted to expand it to a full range of what Pace has to offer from business classes to science.”

Thanks in part to a grant from the Teagle Foundation, the average number of students has risen from 21 to more than 100 high schoolers coming to campus each summer for a comprehensive taste of higher education. Students can live in the dorms, take classes in their “majors” taught by Pace faculty and staff, and explore the city through field trips and other outings. A great advantage to participants is the Pace Promise, which guarantees students letters of recommendation and makes financial aid more accessible, should they choose to come to Pace.

Thirty Summer Scholars alumni applied to Pace for fall 2010, and nearly a dozen are already enrolled in classes.

In addition to the taste of college life, students also have the opportunity to build lifelong friendships. Malone cites the summer class of 2007 as one example, where five students from all over the country quickly became close friends and remained in contact. These five students participated in Malone’s alternative spring break trip in New Orleans to help clean up homes and work with children in grammar schools.

Seidenberg Scholars

While exceptional students typically have their pick of Ivy League institutions, the Seidenberg Scholars Program serves as one unique recruiting tool that attracts top talent to Pace.

“This program is highly competitive,” says Program Director and Seidenberg Assistant Dean Jonathan Hill, DPS. “A lot of these kids have perfect SAT scores. We’re trying to find the stand-out students with leadership roles in their high schools.”

Each summer, 24 rising high school seniors – whom Hill describes as “top, top math and technology students” – come to Pace to participate in a variety of development challenges using the Lego robotics framework over the course of a week. They are partnered with a faculty member and work with alumni of the Seidenberg Scholars Program. Students visit hot technology startups in the city, attend cultural events, and get a general feel for the work and cultural climate in New York City.

“College is a highly individual choice. Ultimately these kids have to decide if they want to give up the traditional sorority houses and football stadiums,” says Hill. “What they get [in return] is access to the hottest tech jobs in the country.”

One of the advantages of Pace includes the option for students to participate in a variety of creative classes or even take a double major, in addition to being part of a comprehensive technology program. While computer science and fine or performing arts are not subjects that are typically paired together, Hill notes that many a Seidenberg Scholar will go on to study a right-brain and a left-brain discipline.

“It’s pretty common,” says Hill. “The computer folks are creative problem-solvers. We find those kids who are serious artists and performers, which is a definite sell for Pace.”

Attracting students from as far away as Alaska and Hawaii, the Seidenberg Scholars Program helps participants stay in touch through its active Facebook page. In previous years, almost one third of the attendees have accepted admission to Pace.

“The quality of work that the students, faculty, and alumni produce is incredible,” says Hill. “I think these students are a representation of the future for Pace—talented people who could go to school anywhere, but chose to come to Pace.”