Undergraduate Scholars Programs Develop New Initiative to Increase Community Engagement

Jenny Nguyen, Maroon-News Staff

Efforts are underway to increase connectedness and foster a common scholar identity between Colgate’s three existing scholar programs. The initiative will also promote program visibility and encourage engagement between scholars and the larger campus.

Until recently, the three Colgate scholar programs, the Alumni Memorial Scholars (AMS), the Benton Scholars and the Office of Undergraduate Studies Scholars (OUS) have been relatively detached from each other and from the rest of campus. The newly appointed Assistant Dean for Undergraduate Scholars Programs Brent Fujioka said that this will no longer be the case.

“This is a vision for how the scholar programs should be functioning holistically,” Fujioka said. “What we’re looking at is having the scholar community function as an intellectual community, as a basis to build up the intellectual portion of the university.”

Central to this vision is creating a common scholar community among the three groups, which have traditionally functioned almost entirely separately from one another. Each group has had a distinct mission: AMS is geared toward academic excellence, Benton emphasizes global leadership and OUS focuses on empowering first-generation students and students of color.

Fujioka said that the challenge will now be to create a shared identity that encompasses the strengths of scholars from all three programs, while making sure that no voices are drowned out in the process.

An important first task is to revamp AMS. Dating back to the end of World War II, the AMS program is the oldest scholar program on campus. Fujioka said that in recent years, however, it has fallen into obscurity and has little direction or significant impact on campus life. Fujioka said a big part of his vision for the scholar programs is to recall the original mission of AMS, which in 1947 was to promote global leaders who would work towards peace and prosperity for all, and to make it relevant for modern day scholars.

“What we want is a fundamental revisioning and reimagining of what the program should be,” Fujioka said.

A central goal of the initiative is to correct campus assumptions about scholar programs and foster larger-community involvement with the programs, with a focus on community service and raising awareness of current issues. All three programs recently partnered with the Colgate Vote Project to register voters on campus. Other measures already underway include a speaker series, which the scholars would co-sponsor with other campus organizations, as well as a scholar symposium on December 5.

Senior and Benton Scholar Micah Dirkers welcomes the initiative, which he said is overdue.

“It’s something I’ve wanted for years. I’ve always enjoyed the scholar programs, but I wish I could have worked more with AMS and OUS,” Dirkers said.

Dirkers also emphasized the importance of greater visibility for the scholar programs.

“We in the Benton program are doing a project to redesign the core curriculum right now. We’ve done other projects about renovations on campus and how we can be more creative with different spaces on campus. I’d like to see that shared with people and I’d like to learn what AMS [scholars are] doing with their research,” Dirkers said.

Contact Jenny Nguyen at [email protected].