High-impact, hands-on learning experiences are a defining feature of undergraduate education at Johnson State College, and there is no better example of what we mean by this than the Student Transition, Achievement, Retention and Teaching (START) Scholars Program. This opportunity prepared students for graduate school and future employment by providing realistic, relevant, supportive, and challenging research and learning opportunities.
START Scholars at Northern Vermont University-Johnson received:
- Ongoing opportunities to conduct research and gather field samples alongside faculty and other START students.
- Enhanced faculty mentoring.
- Ongoing opportunities to build your professional networks by attending and presenting at professional conferences.
- Opportunities to build a strong portfolio of work.
- Structured learning communities.
- Focused academic and career advising.
- Numerous opportunities to meet and connect with leading scientists and policymakers who speak on campus as part of our Environmental & Health Sciences Lecture Series.
Most other colleges reserve these kinds of experiences for graduate students — but START scholars dig right in starting their very first year at Northern Vermont University-Johnson.
The START program provided academically talented, yet financially disadvantaged students, who choose to major in environmental science or biology, with appropriate opportunities to build skillsets that enabled them to do their best and most creative work. With enhanced advising, faculty mentoring, academic training, and opportunities for faculty mentored research, most START scholars completed their degrees, minimized their college debt, and were better prepared for life after college. START scholars, two-thirds of whom were the first in their family to obtain a college degree, pursued advanced degrees or found employment in the STEM field. Furthermore, the graduation rate for START scholars was 46% percentage points higher than the all-college rate.
START scholars participated in a special seminar focused on improving communication, academic, research and technical skills. The highly successful seminar, offered as a workshop, enabled students to develop the skills required to succeed in college and beyond. The activities cultivated improvement in note-taking, test-taking, presentation skills, critical reading, laboratory techniques, research methods, writing skills, mathematics, time management, the development of grant proposals, and preparation for participation in scientific conferences. Other supports included opportunities for faculty-mentored undergraduate research, the development of interviewing skills, resumes, and applications in order to identify internship opportunities, find future employment, or seek advanced degrees.
Take a minute to meet one cohort of START scholars and find out what they have to say about their experience in the program.
Participation in faculty-mentored undergraduate research excites students, motivates them to work more diligently, and often leads to advanced degrees. This S-STEM award has helped shift the campus culture to focus on high impact learning activities and faculty-mentored undergraduate research. This emphasis in education was noted in 2016 by the Council of Public Liberal Arts Colleges when it named Johnson State College as the premier public liberal arts college in the state of Vermont.
Student interest and dedication to learning were piqued through opportunities for faculty-mentored undergraduate research, and student participation in local, regional, national, and international conferences. START scholars presented their research i) to the Members of Congress at a Posters on the Hill event, ii) at National Council on Undergraduate Research annual meetings, iii) at the First World Congress on Undergraduate Research in Qatar, and iv) at numerous local and regional conferences. START scholars also served the college community as leaders of the student government, academic coaches, club presidents, and as effective ambassadors for Northern Vermont University-Johnson and the Vermont State College System.
As one START scholar wrote: “I was a little nervous when I first attended the START classes but it has been one of the most rewarding experiences. I am thankful that [the faculty] worked so hard to make sure that the students at Johnson succeed. Thank you for believing in all of your students and the dreams that they have.”