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News Finding Identity in the Associate in Arts Program

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Tara Lennon/THE REVIEW: On these campuses, students don’t meet at the dining hall, attend 300-person lectures or hear the Memorial Hall bells every day.

by Tara Lennon, Associate News Editor
The Review
February 24, 2020

For many high school students dreaming of college, the university’s Newark campus fits within the realm of what they imagine as the “typical college campus”: brick buildings, bright green turfs where students on a nice day play spike ball and blast loud music and a library with a slightly ugly 1980s-type interior design.

The campuses of the university’s Associate in Arts Program (AAP) hold quite a different aesthetic and atmosphere than that of the university’s Newark campus. On these campuses, students don’t meet at the dining hall, attend 300-person lectures or hear the Memorial Hall bells every day.

Despite the differences across the campuses, all hold the identity of and make up an essential portion of the university. Because it may be easier for students in the isolated college town of Newark to identify as university students, faculty and staff of the AAP work to help students find their identity as university students and as individuals.

Students of the AAP spend their first two years of college pursuing an associate degree at the university’s Wilmington, Dover or Georgetown campuses. After they complete the credits required for their associate's degree, they transition to Newark to complete their bachelor’s degree.

Blue Hen Identity

James Keegan, associate professor of English on the Georgetown campus, said that professors try to ingrain into students’ heads that they are university students even though they are not on main campus yet.

“We stress all the time: ‘You’re Blue Hens, you can transition to main campus, not transfer, you are a Blue Hen,’” Keegan said.

Numerous elements of the program also help to create students’ identities as Blue Hens by preparing them for their transition to the Newark campus. While in the AAP, students attend colloquium and university studies classes, meet with advisors to talk about their academic, financial and housing plans for their future in Newark and engage in discussions with visiting university housing and financial services representatives.

A distinctive aspect of the AAP is the close relationship formed between students and professors because of the small class sizes and one-on-one interactions between students and professors. While students are on their respective AAP campuses and while they are on the Newark campus, professors serve as part of their support system.

“We can point them in the direction they need to go on main campus,” Anne Colwell, associate professor of English on the Georgetown campus, said. “That feeling of comfort and that someone really has your back — that’s really crucially important.”

Students who have already transitioned to the Newark campus also help to integrate students currently in the AAP onto main campus life, both social and academic.

J. Scott Lykens, southern Delaware program coordinator for the university and assistant professor in the School of Education, said the Association of Pre-Professional Leaders of Education (APPLE) has a cooperative relationship with the AAP. Members of APPLE go down to the Georgetown campus to talk about their club and life on main campus, and students from the AAP arrange a trip to main campus where students from APPLE give a tour and answer questions. He said that APPLE’s current outreach director and several former outreach directors started their education in the AAP.

Making the Transition

Many students still deal with anxieties surrounding the transition to the main campus. Christine Grogan, assistant professor of English on the Dover campus, said that many students mainly worry about finances. She said students in the AAP often have to support families or have to work full-time jobs, which can pose a barrier to completing the four-year degree.

Furthermore, Scott Lykens said many students worry about the sudden change of attending a campus that is housed within a building with small class sizes, to a campus that extends across a town with massive lecture classes.

“One of the things I tell them is when you go to your classes, it’s not gonna be like high school where someone just moved in from out-of-state,” he said. “When you show up to your first day of class, no one’s going to wonder where you were the last two years.”

The daunting size of the main campus causes many AAP students to engage in “Newark clustering,” as Keegan calls it, where they stay in touch and often live with friends they made in the AAP. Furthermore, a dedicated advisor on the Newark campus helps students make this transition and deal with any challenges they encounter.

“It’s hard to have your freshman year in your junior year,” Colwell said.

Nicholas Carlino, junior English major, however, found his transition to main campus very smooth because coming here, he joined his tight-knit group of friends that he had stayed close with since high school.

While AAP students work to find their identity as university students both before and after they arrive on main campus, the AAP itself works to cultivate its own identity as part of the university.

Identity & Visibility in Shared Spaces

One of the challenges for the Georgetown and Dover AAP is that they are housed within a competitive institution: Delaware Technical Community College.

Grogan, a university alumna, said that while she was a student on the main campus, she did not know that the AAP, formerly the Parallel Program, even existed. When she later was applying for a job within the Associate in Arts Program, she had difficulty finding where exactly the campus was because of the fact that the Dover building is housed within DelTech.

“Sometimes there is anxiety about the relationship with DelTech and the fact that we’re housed inside of DelTech,” Keegan said. “Some people are consistently coming back to the idea if only we had our own campus, the identity issue that we work so hard would be easier.”

Despite the AAP’s challenges regarding identity and visibility, Carlino felt that “they do a good job of getting you in and kind of keeping you separate from DelTech.”

Grogan is currently taking additional steps to increase visibility of the AAP.

“I’ve been trying actually to fight the fight to get us signs on the highway,” Grogan said. “That would at least put us literally on the map so people would know that we’re a presence here.”

Carlino said that when he applied to the university, he too was unaware of the existence of the AAP and found out about it after searching the internet for ways to finance his education.

“I lucked into it really, kind of by chance,” Carlino said. “ I recommend it, I wish UD would promote it more.”

News Story Supporting Images and Text
Used in the Home Page News Listing and for the News Rollup Page
The Review's Tara Lennon speaks with AAP faculty and students in this look at the program's greatest strengths and its biggest challenges for the future.

The Review's Tara Lennon speaks with AAP faculty and students in this look at the program's greatest strengths and its biggest challenges for the future.

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  • Associate in Arts Program
  • UD Academic Center
  • 300 N. Orange St.
  • Wilmington, DE 19801
  • Phone: (302) 571-5395
  • Fax: (302) 657-5198