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Some incoming Ross School of Business freshman at the University of Michigan from under-resourced high schools and diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to participate in a four-week program designed to expose students to the rigors of the Business School and provide them with the opportunity to network with key contacts before the school year begins.

Since the Ross Summer Connections pilot program launched on July 12, the 19 participants have been living in Cambridge House and attending classes that resemble ones they will be enrolled in during the fall semester. Subjects covered include Calculus I, Economics 101, First-Year Writing and Business Administration.

Rhonda Todd, director of Academic Success at Michigan Ross and director of RCS, explained how the invitation to join is based on multiple criteria including familiarity with the business field. She discussed the overarching goal to immerse the students in an authentic and comprehensive Business School experience that eases their transition from high school to the University.  

“We’re giving students who typically could use the additional resources the opportunity to thrive in the program as opposed to just surviving,” Todd said. “These are students who want to spend their time getting acclimated to the campus and rigor … They want to be here.”

According to Todd, the students get a head start on important topics that will be relevant to their Ross education. RSC participants learn about creating a professional online presence, email etiquette and time-management, among other skills.

Diana Gaspar, a first-generation Mexican student from a rural Michigan town called Berrien Springs, is one such participant. Gaspar said she had found RSC to be one of her favorite summer experiences. She said the program is an excellent way to familiarize herself with the environment, people and academic expectations of the University, as well as to boost her confidence.

“My school did not offer AP courses; I had never experienced a high rigor class,” Gaspar said. “Compared to those who were coming in with 30 plus AP credits, I felt inadequate. RSC has given me the confidence and experience, to take on the upcoming courses. I now know I am not going to be thrown in here completely blind.”

Jordan Tran, one of Gaspar’s fellow RSC cohort members, shared the positivity towards the program and found it rewarding to get ahead in courses such as Economics 101 and hear from the guest speakers. Tran was raised in Ann Arbor by his Vietnamese parents and went to high school in the area. He said he found the opportunity to hear from and connect with guest speakers to be rewarding and looks forward to exploring his interests once the fall semester commences.

“RSC has already helped me in countless ways,” Tran said. “In all our classes, we have homework … midterms, and final exams … By the time the fall comes around, I will already be in school mode and I don’t need time to make that transition. All our speakers come from different backgrounds and it’s really great to see how diverse the University of Michigan, as well as (the Business School), is.”

Along with professional and academic preparation, the RSC has a social aspect through which students collaborate in study groups, compete in case competitions and engage with various campus groups and city events, such as the Ann Arbor Street Art Fair. Both Gaspar and Tran noted they formed friendships with their peers through the program.

The program runs until Aug. 5, giving students ample time to reflect on their experiences and take a break before returning for classes in September.

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