EOP director outlines new goals, challengesTweet
The Educational Opportunity Program is not about to rest on its laurels with the highest graduation rate in New York state.
“I am highly competitive,” EOP Director Randall Edouard said. “I’m happy that our graduation rate (73.68 percent) is best among EOPs. Our students even have a higher graduation rate than the ‘regularly’ admitted students at the other three university centers. My goal is for our graduation rate to exceed that of the ‘regularly’ admitted students here.”
Edouard has already laid out the challenge to his staff and students.
“It’s a hefty goal, but we have high expectations,” he said. “What’s beautiful is that Binghamton University wins no matter what.”
Edouard has put his mark on the program since becoming director in March 2009.
One example is the summer program known as the Binghamton Enrichment Program (BEP), a four-week session for new EOP students that combines rigorous academic and realistic social transition.
“We try to provide students with a microcosm of what they will face here once the figurative fall bell rings,” Edouard said. “I definitely feel that we are preparing them for the rigors of the University.”
The first session in 2009 included 165 students; 2010 featured 87 students. Those students spend their days taking three academic courses while growing together socially through activities such as picnics, movies, sports and organizational fairs. Students stay busy while working under stringent rules: no absences or tardiness allowed; no cell phones; and no going off-campus without a professional staff member. Violating the rules means immediate dismissal from the program, Edouard said.
“All of this was put in to protect the integrity of the program and to protect the safety of the students,” he said. “This year, we had no problems with any of the rules. Tough rules, but we think they are important because we only have four weeks to get students ready. We want their undivided attention.”
Edouard is “fully entrenched” during the program, living himself in the residence halls, maintaining order and getting to know the students.
“It’s critical for me,” he said. “I need the students to feel that I have a vested interest in this. They see me in the residence hall. I’m eating the same meals and I’m at all of the events. If I’m trying to build a culture, I have to be there to make sure it’s being shaped the way I want it shaped.”
Edouard also is shaping the EOP culture in other ways. A town hall meeting is held on the first day of class each semester in the Watters Theater. This enables more than 600 students to get closer and reinforces the theme of “Love, Unity and Community.”
“There was a time when students would walk by each other, both in EOP, but they wouldn’t know it,” he said.
Edouard and EOP have emphasized the importance of writing by having students take a course during the summer program, followed by Writing 110 in the fall and Writing 111 in the spring.
“I truly believe that writing is the most important skill that a student needs in all of the disciplines,” he said. “Students who have good writing skills tend to do very well. They’re not afraid to communicate what they’ve learned.”
Edouard’s other short-term goals for EOP include a book stipend for students. He went on an “all-out campaign” for the book stipends after some students told him they could not afford textbooks.
“Our students are coming in at a disadvantage: economically disadvantaged, academically disadvantaged,” he said. “Now we’re asking them to be successful without the most essential tools in an academic setting? That’s ridiculous to me.”
EOP cut back in areas to ensure that each student received a $210 book stipend last spring. Students in the program received a $100 book stipend this fall.
“This is a big initiative of mine,” he said. “I’m not letting go. We have the system in place. All we need is the consistent funding.”
He also is working with University officials to get students academic credit for two of the three summer courses they take as part of the Binghamton Enrichment Program.
Edouard and his staff continue to focus on teamwork as a way of developing the program. Sophomores should help freshmen; juniors should help sophomores; seniors should help everyone, he said.
“We are trying to become a close-knit, wonderful group that is interested in helping each other be successful,” he said. “If you look at successful people in life, you’ll see that they stood on the shoulders of others to get where they are. No one does this alone.”