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Norse Skolars

"When students have a place or a familiar face that they can with connect with on campus, it does help with alleviating some stress. It helps students feel more connected at the university and to have that sense of security that someone cares.”
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Summer melt is described as a phenomenon where recent high school graduates who were planning to go to college, shift course and decide to no longer enroll by the time the first day of their would-be college classes begin. The students “melt away” in the summer months. There are numerous factors contributing to this. Another college offered them more financial aid. They never made it to orientation.

To combat this, the Norse Skolars program was created in the 2020 academic year. The program was the fan vote winner of NKU’s Innovation Challenge, being awarded $54,990. Norse Skolars is a partnership between the admissions office, University Connect and Persist and AmeriCorps. Initially the program was only for the summer, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way the program would operate.

Kaci Telford, assistant director of outreach and recruitment, says the pandemic made the program expand way beyond the summer months.

“What Norse Skolars turned into was this summer melt initiative and then also turned into a retention initiative as well,” she says.

Telford says the university chose 500 incoming students for its initial class. The students included first-generation, under-represented applicants after May 1 and graduates from certain school districts, such as Cincinnati Public Schools or River City schools. The program used AmeriCorps staff to continuously keep in contact with the selected students throughout the year. Students learned different aspects of college including budgeting and information on campus organizations and resources in case they were struggling academically. The program also used platforms like Instagram and Slack.

Telford says the most surprising thing she learned while administering the program was that less than half of the students did not have a prior organization they were part of such as NKU ROCKS, LAMP or TRIO. Norse Skolars instead served as their “home.”

Peg Adams, UCAP director, says giving students a place where they belong can help them in their college careers.

“When students have a place or a familiar face that they can with connect with on campus, it does help with alleviating some stress,” she says. “It helps students feel more connected at the university and to have that sense of security that someone cares.”

The program also has proven to be successful, Telford says. Of the 500 students who were selected, 428 students became officially enrolled at NKU, and 74% of those students continued on from fall 2020 to spring 2021. Data is still pending for spring 2021 to fall 2021 retention.

“I’d say what made the program so successful was the one-on-one time the students received,” Telford says.

For this coming year, Adams says she is looking forward to having more in-person activities for the students as well as connecting with other entities, such as Steely Library or University Housing.

“There’s something missing I think when you’re just doing everything online,” she says. “It’s going to be interesting because even though the students from last year have been in college for a year, this could be the first time they’re really on campus. So I think it’s going to be important to continue the outreach to the continuing students to help guide them through this phrase of their educational journey.”

The program also has proven to be successful, Telford says. Of the 500 students who were selected, 428 students became officially enrolled at NKU, and 74% of those students continued on from fall 2020 to spring 2021. Data is still pending for spring 2021 to fall 2021 retention.

“I’d say what made the program so successful was the one-on-one time the students received,” Telford says.

For this coming year, Adams says she is looking forward to having more in-person activities for the students as well as connecting with other entities, such as Steely Library or University Housing.

“There’s something missing I think when you’re just doing everything online,” she says. “It’s going to be interesting because even though the students from last year have been in college for a year, this could be the first time they’re really on campus. So I think it’s going to be important to continue the outreach to the continuing students to help guide them through this phrase of their educational journey.”

About This Article

Trey Crumbie
Contributor. NKU Magazine
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Published August 2021
Photography provided by Scott Beseler
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