Arcadia’s Assistant Director of Undergraduate Studies and Gateway to Success Program Coordinator Cristina Cintron-Marsh has found unique ways of connecting with students during COVID-19.
As an undergraduate advisor, Cintron-Marsh spent the summer on Zoom, providing first-year students with undeclared majors the support they needed to feel welcome at Arcadia. Upon logging onto Zoom, Cintron-Marsh’s friendly demeanor lit up even the gloomiest of faces. She is easy to talk to, knowledgeable, and finds ways to relate to students, both in and out of the classroom. She credits this passion to her work within the Gateway to Success Program.
The Gateway to Success/ACT101 Program gives access and academic support to students who may not have met typical admission criteria, but have demonstrated the potential to succeed in college. The Act 101 portion provides additional support and services to students who are Pennsylvania residents.
“Students will come and live on campus for five weeks, and they’ll take up to eight credits (or three classes) to help them prepare for not just college, but the Arcadia community as a whole,” said Cintron-Marsh. “I love getting to know them over the summer, we eat meals together, go on weekend trips and activities, and really try to get to know them outside of the classroom.”
The pandemic altered this year’s program, and Cintron-Marsh and her colleagues spent the spring semester planning an entirely new, COVID-19 friendly Gateway to Success for the summer. Cintron-Marsh and a small group of faculty members decided to send out welcome baskets to students in the 2020 Summer Program. The team hand-delivered the baskets to students who were local to campus, and mailed out the ones to students who were out of state.
“It was a nice way to kick off our program, since it showed them that even though we couldn’t physically see them throughout the next five weeks, we were still able to connect with them,” said Cintron-Marsh.
While Cintron-Marsh expressed her gratitude to faculty and staff for allowing the program to occur despite the pandemic, it wasn’t a walk in the park.
“It was definitely challenging since I am used to seeing them everyday, and oftentimes people will just drop by my office to chat, which is nearly impossible over Zoom,” said Cintron-Marsh. “So it felt a little disconnected. But in other ways it allowed us to find more creative ways to engage with the students and connect with them in an online platform.”
The Gateway to Success team delivering baskets to students in June 2020.
Gateway has hosted a plethora of events to engage students both in and out of the classroom, including game nights and workshops utilizing all functions of Zoom. In particular, the chat function on Zoom allowed students a more candid way of connecting with one another.
“I don’t require anyone to turn on their cameras since some students may not have the space and privacy they need to do their work, but it has been weird not seeing their faces,” said Cintron-Marsh. “This new reality is so different, and while we are trying our best to do everything we can for the students who need our help, there is also a lot we can’t do, which is definitely frustrating.”
While this year has certainly looked different, Cintron-Marsh is inspired everyday by her work. Seeing students find themselves, and knowing she was able to help them, has been so rewarding.
“I’ve seen some students be even more engaged than they would normally be due to their engagement with the Gateway Student Mentors,” said Cintron-Marsh. “As an adviser, it’s difficult for me to give advice and understand where the student is coming from, but when it comes from a peer, they are more inclined to listen and understand. They know and understand what the students are going through.”
Each student within the Gateway to Success program is paired with a student mentor, to help them transition into college life, and have a friendly face on campus.
Cintron-Marsh dedicates herself to helping students in any way she possibly can. She encourages students who are struggling to utilize campus resources to find the help they need.
“It’s okay if you don’t know what you need help with, but there are so many people who would line up at your door to support you,” she said. “If you are feeling overwhelmed or tired or scared, all you need to do is come to one of us and tell us you need help. That’s what we are here for.”