Richard Bland selects six faculty members to teach Promise Scholars

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Richard Bland has selected six faculty from the College of William and Mary that will teach the first cohort of Promise Scholars. COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

At a Board of Visitors meeting April 18, Richard Bland College, the College of William and Mary’s junior college located in Petersburg, revealed its progress with the Promise Scholars Program, which is currently evaluating potential candidates for admission into its transfer program for in-state, Pell Grant-eligible students, and has already selected six faculty members who will teach them.

Richard Bland mathematics professor Matt Smith, who has taken a leadership role in developing the program, said that the admission process is rolling. At the time of the meeting, eight out of 15 students have been admitted under the program. These students will make up the first cohort next fall.

One of those students, Rachel Freeman, said she graduated high school a couple years ago and did not know the direction she would take in life until a backpacking trip with a friend in Europe allowed her to grow more confident. She then decided to enroll at Richard Bland.

“When I came back, I went to Richard Bland … I have a family that lives paycheck to paycheck,” Freeman said. “Richard Bland is a really affordable, amazing school.”

“When I came back, I went to Richard Bland … I have a family that lives paycheck to paycheck,” Freeman said. “Richard Bland is a really affordable, amazing school.”

Psychology professor and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Janice Zeman, who could not attend Wednesday’s meeting, was in charge of faculty recruitment. Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Henry Broaddus said that one of the concerns brought up during the project’s conception centered on who would be recruited.

“When we were first promoting this, one senior faculty member, whom I always trust to raise more concerns than even I could possibly think of … said, ‘We have to make sure we send our best,’” Broaddus said.

According to Zeman, students will receive instruction from two College faculty members who have been designated as Promise Fellows and will consequently act as the students’ academic advisors.

Though only two professors were required to start off the first cohort, Broaddus said that because they had such a large pool of professors, they went ahead and committed to hiring all six that applied as Promise Fellows.

Africana studies and linguistics lecturer Iyabo Osiapem will teach her course, How Rastafari Moved the World, to Promise Scholars. After sitting on the Presidential Search Committee last year, she learned of Richard Bland’s relationship with the College and thought about how she could get involved.

“I have advised students who have transferred here in the past and they just run into some of the biggest issues just trying to get into classes, literally getting around campus — they kind of miss all that introduction stuff that freshmen tend to get, and I felt for them and I advise them, so when I found out about this, I was wondering how I could be a part of that transition process,” Osiapem said.

Chemistry lecturer Bev Sher also said she felt inspired to become a part of the project because of her previous experiences with transfer students. She will teach Emerging Diseases, a COLL 150 course currently offered at the College that Sher originally conceived of a decade ago as a seminar for transfer students.

Religious studies professor Annie Blazer will teach a COLL 100 course for the scholars. Because she is currently on sabbatical, the course will be based on her research as she investigates the effects of gentrification on religious communities in the east end of Richmond, Virginia. Students will visit three field sites during the course, which are Cedar Street Church, East End Fellowship and East End Cemetery.

“What’s exciting to me about this class is that I get to bring students to field sites that I’m engaging with and we get to look at this big question of how does gentrification impact religious communities,” Blazer said.

“What’s exciting to me about this class is that I get to bring students to field sites that I’m engaging with and we get to look at this big question of how does gentrification impact religious communities,” Blazer said.

Blazer cited impactful interactions with the first transfer student she taught at the College as the reason why she decided to become a Promise Fellow.

“My first year at William and Mary, I had a transfer student in one of my classes who had encountered all of the challenges and the advantages of being a transfer student at William and Mary and became one of the most inspiring students that I worked with, so I am excited to see what comes of this program,” Blazer said.

Sociology professor Kathleen Jenkins, who said she worked with transfer students and was a transfer student herself when she returned at the age of 30 to Brown University, will be teaching Self Help and Therapeutic Culture as a COLL 100 course.

One of the other fellows, chemistry professor Randy Coleman, will teach Chemistry of Emotion and Behavior as a COLL 150 course. He said that he felt that his role as a former dean of Academic Advising prepared him to be a Promise Fellow.

Psychology professor Meghan Sinton-Miller could not attend the meeting. As a Promise Fellow, she also will teach Body Image in Children and Adolescents, which will examine the nature of school dress codes and the message that they send.

“It’s remarkable that something that started as the first concept paper only really last summer, now we have real students, we also have real faculty who are associated,” Broaddus said. “We are very excited about that.”

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