By Ed Abeyta
The majority of high school students are unprepared for the multiple demands of college work and the level of responsibility required by studying away from home. But there are new ways to taste the college experience and visit some of the most intriguing science venues in the West.
In an effort to bridge the gap from high school to college, UC San Diego Extension offers Academic Connections, a summer residential immersion program that gives high school students a taste of the real college experience in a safe and supervised environment.
Eligible students can participate in a non-stop summer program held on the UC San Diego campus or in one of three research laboratories. They are enrolled in classes that mirror the university experience, ranging from engineering to theatre production.
This year high school students have four options for an Academic Connections experience: three weeks on the oceanfront UC San Diego campus in La Jolla, California; one week at the Kohala Center on the Big Island of Hawaii; one week at Biosphere 2 in Arizona; or one week at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
It has never been more important to spark the imagination of our students, expose them to big ideas and give them the tools they will need to be successful in an emerging world we can’t yet imagine. Academic Connection programs focus on the theme of “Global Environmental Leadership and Sustainability.”
Now in its second year, Academic Connections students who participate in the Hawaii program will discover that the islands’ root culture is embedded in knowledge of the natural world, self-reliance and ecosystem health. This course exposes students as to how the island thrives ecologically, economically, culturally and socially via first-hand guided tours and hands-on work at locations throughout the Big Island, in partnership with The Kohala Center.
Biosphere 2 is located north of Tucson, Arizona at the base of the stunning Santa Catalina Mountains. This one-of-a-kind facility sits on a ridge at a cool elevation of nearly 4000 feet and is surrounded by a magnificent natural desert preserve. The program with Biosphere 2, which Time Life Books recently named one of the 50 must see “Wonders of the World,” is offered in partnership with the University of Arizona. Academic Connections students will enjoy a unique adventure not found anywhere else. This is a rare opportunity to participate in real-time research on the future of our planet as it unfolds in the specially designed mini-world.
The one week program at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a premier national security research institution, is offered in partnership with the University of New Mexico. The people of Los Alamos continually work on advanced technologies to provide the United States with the best scientific and engineering solutions to many of the nation’s most crucial challenges. The primary responsibility of the Laboratory is assuring the safety and reliability of the nation’s defense program. Though the world is rapidly changing, this essential responsibility remains the core mission.
Those who choose the residential program at UC San Diego, long regarded as one of the nation’s premier research universities, discover why the campus was named the “hottest” institution in the country for students to study science by Newsweek magazine.
According to Newsweek, on a campus where a quarter of the $2 plus billion in revenue is federal research funds, and where there are eight Nobel laureates on the faculty, the science is quite serious. Our chancellor, Marye Anne Fox, an organic chemist, says welcoming undergrads into labs is a priority. High school students as well are getting to see what happens within the inner sanctum of science.
Academic Connections promises a taste of college and delivers with no time to waste. A typical day starts with breakfast at 7:00 am, lectures from 9:00 am until lunch, workshops and labs until 3:30 pm, an afternoon activity, dinner, and social activities from 7:30 pm until lights out at 11:00 pm.
The message is clear. College will not be like the classes you experienced in high school. College is a fulltime job, a community of learning and a wonderful mix of social and intellectual experiences. Academic Connections instructors, typically UC San Diego or other partner university doctoral students, tell it like it is.
Via a combination of lectures, labs, study halls, discussion roundtables and guest speakers, the students get a taste of what college will be like. Courses are selected to represent some of the cutting edge fields of research UC San Diego has to offer in physical and social sciences, engineering, and arts and humanities.
Thanks to community partners, about 10 percent of students receive scholarships, which allows an opportunity for talented students who can benefit from the program but cannot afford to participate without financial assistance.