Campus & Community

Stevens' Summer Previews of College Life Are Breaking Records

The university's popular pre-college program is giving high-schoolers a taste of the Stevens experience — and expanding access to STEM education

Emily Considine, a rising high school junior from the greater Philadelphia area, was tired but eager to get back to work after a full day of business instruction from faculty teaching in Stevens' summer pre-college program.

After a quick dinner break in her home, she logged back onto Zoom and virtually rejoined a student team assembled as they began analyzing the Six Flags amusement-property company.

"I really enjoyed the combination of research and instruction," says Considine, who participated in a one-week night section of the program's Business Explore course, where she proposed novel marketing strategies to differentiate, diversify and win additional market position for the company.

"I learned a lot. I had never done a SWOT analysis before; I did not understand some of the aspects of the business; etc."

With four teammates, Considine created a presentation that ultimately triumphed in the end-of-week business analysis competition, winning Stevens School of Business sweatshirts as prizes.

She also took business seminars during the daytime, drilling down on aspects of management, marketing, finance, economics and business ethics.

"This all helps you, as a prospective college student, narrow down what you are thinking about as your eventual major," notes Considine. "Even those who know they want to be business students can gain a lot from this, figuring out what they do and do not want to focus on later."

Other student teams examined companies operating in spaces such as video gaming and fashion. They also enjoyed "extras" like a video chat with a Federal Reserve staff member who explained monetary policy in user-friendly terms — then took questions afterward.

"We give every student attention, and we stress this is what you will do if you go to a school like Stevens," explains Lindsay Hartelius, who taught business topics during the program alongside School of Business Assistant Dean Michelle Crilly for the third summer running.

"Students tell me they were amazed how much they can learn about companies in the pre-college business program."

"Professor Hartelius was very passionate about what she was teaching, really engaged in the material, and this got students excited," agrees Considine.

Real-world, real-campus experiences

The section of business coursework is part of Stevens' popular summer pre-college program of one- and two-week courses for high-school juniors and seniors — a program that saw more than 500 applications received for the 2021 session.

"Our programs were very successful this summer," notes Joel Rolon, director of the pre-college program since 2020. "We made a smooth transition to virtual pre-college programming, while also increasing our mix of programs, activities, workshops and other enhancements based on our observations and analysis of the 2020 program."

More than 425 high school students from 26 states joined the summer session in 2021 — roughly double the number who completed it the previous summer, and the highest number to ever participate.

"The purpose of our programs is to provide an opportunity for high school students to get insight into the college experience," says Rolon. "From the application process to being taught by Stevens faculty, we want students to feel more confident about attending college, whether it is Stevens or not.

"We really want them thinking hard about, and moving toward, potential STEM educations in the future."

The program's 2021 participants chose from business, pre-med, visual arts, computer science and engineering courses during the daytime. Sessions prepping the high school students on college-level essay writing, mental health and wellness, and career services also supplement the technical coursework.

"Applications were up significantly this year," notes Rolon. "Fortunately, we were able to accommodate this uptick in interest."

One reason why: prospective students — and their parents and high school counselors — increasingly perceive the program's high value.

"Stevens' pre-college program definitely gives you this kind of flavor of a college campus," notes Mishah Uzziél Salman, a teaching associate professor who has taught mechanical engineering and robotics topics in the pre-college program since 2015. "You quickly discover what a STEM environment is, what it is like to be immersed in a college campus, what STEM faculty and labs are like, and what the spirit of teamwork is."

"Even doing the program virtually these last two years, students got a good sense of what a Stevens education would be like."

As an added bonus, participants often contact Stevens afterward about admissions.

"We have already been contacted by a few students from this summer's pre-college program interested in possibly applying to the School of Business," reports Hartelius.

Expanding access, via Stevens ACES

Broadening access to the Stevens and STEM-education experience is also part of the pre-college program's mandate — and Rolon reports success in expanding its reach to underrepresented communities.

This summer nearly 40% of the participating students were female, while more than 30 students were enabled to attend by Stevens ACES (Access to Careers in Engineering and Science), a landmark suite of programs and financial resources working to bring students from communities and school systems traditionally underserved by STEM programming.

Iyad Boxton, a senior at St. Benedict's Preparatory School in Newark, New Jersey who plans to study business in college, analyzed the Under Armour athletics clothing company with a team for his business project. 

"The program gave me a sense of how much more rigorous college is going to be compared to high school," says Boxton, who also participated in useful seminars on such topics as essay-writing and maintaining good mental health. 

"This helped me figure out what I plan to study in college," he says. "Now I've become really interested in finance, economics, and business administration."

Corporate partners contributing to Stevens ACES — and, by extension, to support of pre-college experiences such as Boxton's — include New Jersey-based energy company PSEG and telecommunications leader AT&T.

"As one of its core commitments, PSEG believes strongly in supporting diversity, equity and inclusion, and helping to expand access and develop more diverse pipelines of talent for the workforce," explains PSEG Foundation Manager Maria Spina, who oversees requests for funding support.

"The Stevens ACES initiative is truly aiding in the economic empowerment of talented people who wish to pursue higher educations at leading STEM institutions such as Stevens, and we are very happy to support this effort and to support students entering Stevens' pre-college program."

In addition to Stevens ACES' support for the summer pre-college program, the university also recently reported that nearly 50 incoming first-year students in Stevens' incoming Class of 2025 were assisted with financial support from the program.