The University of St. Thomas offers a 5-week summer program to incoming first-year students.
Student Diversity and Inclusion Services coordinates the Reaching Excellence in Academics and Leadership (REAL) Program, a selective, five-week academic and co-curricular orientation program for students who are members of groups traditionally underrepresented in higher education (including students of color, asylees, refugees, and permanent residents) that are newly committed to attending the University of St. Thomas. Founded in 1998, the REAL Program is designed to acquaint 16 students with campus life, resources and services, and to provide experience with college-level coursework. All participants will earn 4 credits taking their first Theology course (THEO 101 – required for all students) at no cost! The program is offered to replicate a typical semester as a St. Thomas student.
REAL Program allows participants to interact in living and learning environments intended to help them become acclimated to the University before fall semester begins. The program has served 296 students in its 18 year history, and of the 280 REAL Program participants between the 1998 cohort and the 2014 cohort, 262 - or nearly 94% - of those students persisted to their second year at St. Thomas.
Again, all participants will earn 4 credits taking their first Theology course (THEO 101 – required for all students) at no cost! Classroom work focuses on achieving academic success through interactions with faculty, staff, and St. Thomas students to ensure that participants establish meaningful and critical connections with the University community. Academic success workshops, tutoring sessions and peer-led study sessions are also key aspects to academic component of the program.
Participants have the benefit of living in a UST Residence Hall during the 5-week program (weekend departures are permitted). Residence Hall staff familiarizes participants with campus resources and responds to emergency situations. A staff member is on-call at all times.
Students gain practical skills and confidence through work assignments in University offices or departments. Participation also enhances a student’s potential for obtaining on-campus employment during the academic year.
All program costs are covered including room and board. REAL Program participants are also compensated with a small stipend that is distributed incrementally with completion of program requirements. The only cost to the students is the cost of the textbooks for their summer course.
Participants learn how to take advantage of many on campus resources including but not limited to career, academic and personal counseling, Off-Campus Student Services, Financial Aid, Campus Life, Campus Ministry, library resources and athletic facilities. Participants also attend Orientation and Registration together during the five weeks.
Co-curricular opportunities include educational programs, social events and workshops that help students develop leadership skills. REAL Program participants are encouraged to become involved in at least one of more than 140 student-run clubs and organizations on campus.
Students participate in weekly career exploration and preparation workshops that complement their academic skill-building.
Two student interns serve as peer advisors for the students in the REAL Program. The peer advisors are hired each year through a selective process, and live on campus with the REAL Program participants, serving as their resident advisors during the five-week program. They provide peer mentoring to the students, monitor their attendance at the events and activities, and complete weekly reports and daily evaluations of sessions, among other tasks
Parents and families are included at on-site events—an opening luncheon, panel, and staff meeting; Orientation & Registration; and closing banquet—and throughout the program (weekly newsletters with photos and updates of what the students were doing throughout the week). Welcoming families into this transition process and affirming the importance of their support to their student is crucial to their success in the program and beyond.