Federal grant to launch 'Project Excel' at Fairfield University


Fairfield University has been awarded a federal grant of $720,000 over the next four years to launch Project Excel, a program to help students who are from low-income families, are the first generation to attend a four-year college or have a learning disability.

The University was informed by Congressman Christopher Shays of Connecticut's 4th district that the grant was authorized by the Division of Student Support Services of the U.S. Department of Education and covers September 1997 through August 2001.

Dr. Georgia Day, assistant academic vice president and director of Project Excel, explained that the program will seek to assist 150 freshmen and sophomores who need added assistance in order to graduate from Fairfield in four years and go on to a graduate or professional school, if they desire.

"Fairfield accepts students with high SAT scores - this year's freshman class averaged 1127 - but they often come here from high schools without the resources that advantaged schools have. Project Excel will assist those students who are from disadvantaged backgrounds."

As a result, Fairfield will seek to familiarize high school students with the opportunities now available. "We will send literature about Project Excel to high school students through their counselors, the Connecticut Association of Educational Opportunity Program and Upward Bound and Talent Search, both of which operate on the University campus and are successfully helping high school students from Bridgeport raise their horizons in choosing colleges and careers," Dr. Day said.

Eligible students now attending Fairfield and in need of the program are currently being identified so that services can begin for them in January. Incoming students will enroll in summer courses even before the usual fall semester in order to ease the transition from high school to college.

Project Excel will go beyond the traditional tutoring program by offering more services including group tutorials plus one-to-one assistance; mentoring by faculty and upper level student to demonstrate how to set goals or enroll in internships and receive guidance from the University's Career Counseling Center.

In addition, the students will receive exposure to cultural and educational programs including trips to New York theaters. A top priority calls for counselors to assist students in securing admission and financial aid for graduate and professional schools. The program will operate without cost to students or their parents and will collaborate with the University's Office of Multicultural Relations, the Athletic Academic Support Office and the Office of Student Support Services.

In her proposal to the U.S. Department of Education, Dr. Day pointed out that Fairfield University "is a selective residential university with a high overall completion rate that accepts a number of students who are low income, first generation or disabled. We believe that a Student Support Services Project could play a critical role in highlighting plans to identify and increase retention and graduation rates of at-risk students."

The goal is to insure that 65 percent of the students in Project Excel fulfill the requirements in order to graduate in four years and 70 percent will graduate in five years. In addition, counselors will work with students to help them gain a financial package to meet their needs and minimize their dependence on loans.

Dr. Day, a resident of New Haven, joined Fairfield University in 1988 as associate dean in graduate education and has secured five major grants from the U.S. Department of Education to increase undergraduate and graduate diversity at the University. She has been project director for the University's programs for Talent Search started in 1994 to provide 600 Bridgeport high school and middle school students with added tutoring and counseling for college; Upward Bound, an academic and counseling program for 80 Bridgeport high school students who come to the University every Saturday during the school year and then live on campus for five weeks during the summer; Project BEST, a program to train African-American teachers to work in special education; and a regional summer institute in science and mathematics for low-income students from six New England states.

Assisting her as program coordinator is Sherylann Rosenbergen, the academic counselor for the past year at the University for Talent Search and previously a counseling intern for Counseling Services, Inc., and a crisis intervention counselor for Sexual Assault Support Services. She holds a bachelor of science in elementary education from Western Connecticut State University and a master of arts in counseling from the University of New Hampshire.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 1, 1997