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December 12, 2022

Nunes Scholars pre-orientation program aids first-year students

Imani Grant, eighth from left, and Abigail Quintana, 12th from left, gather with the inaugural cohort of Nunes Scholars for a group photo on August 18 in CIA's Mary Ann and Jack Katzenmeyer Student Lounge. Photo by Leah Trznadel ’19.

By Michael C. Butz

First-year Animation student Imani Grant is a Cleveland native and graduate of Lutheran High School East in Cleveland Heights who’s the first in her family to attend a four-year college. She acknowledges she had general apprehension about college as she matriculated at the Cleveland Institute of Art.

“The biggest thing that concerned me was failing my first year and wasting scholarship money and also money paid out of pocket,” she says. “I heard from a lot of people that many first-year students fall into that trap and end up failing the first year. On top of that, I’ve heard horror stories about art schools and how the workload can get kind of heavy.”

First-year Game Design student Abigail Quintana went to North Hollywood High School in Los Angeles and had concerns of her own about college.

“I was most worried about acclimating well to a college lifestyle and to living in Cleveland,” she says. “I’m part of the first generation of kids to attend college in my family, so the entire experience of college was foreign to me.”

In an effort to avoid those pitfalls and better prepare, Grant and Quintana enrolled in the Nunes Scholars pre-orientation program, a three-day initiative designed to support incoming BIPOC, LGBTQIA and first-generation students—and other incoming students who might benefit from a more personalized transition into college.

The program has proven valuable for Grant. “Talking with students, especially my mentor and all the other mentors, about their personal experiences at the school helped a lot. They gave me a lot of advice about time management and finding efficient ways to execute assignments.”

Likewise, the program helped ease Quintana's worries. “Everyone was incredibly welcoming and willing to help in any way they could, whether it was answering questions about nearby restaurants or going into great detail about the different classes and programs available to students that could be beneficial for their majors.

“One of the moments that stood out to me was the very first day, during the Family Welcome + Dinner," Quintana says. “The Dean of Students sat with us, asked us questions and answered some of our own. I think it really helped me and my parents realize just how welcoming and friendly the CIA staff and students are.”

Organized by CIA’s Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Awareness (IDEA) Council, the inaugural Nunes Scholars pre-orientation program took place August 16–18, just prior to CIA’s traditional orientation for incoming students. Fourteen participants had sessions with academic advisors as well as Financial Aid, Student Accounts and Student Life + Housing staff. Art supplies for the students’ first year were provided, and they learned what classes would be like from a session with interim Foundation chair Kevin Kautenburger.

“We intentionally pointed these students to the resources that would help them be successful academically,” says Jesse Grant, Associate Vice President of Student Affairs + Dean of Students.

In addition, each Nunes Scholars student was paired with a student mentor: Painting junior Janoi Daley, Interior Architecture junior Luca Diaz or Drawing senior ShaDonnah Miller. These partnerships last the entire academic year and provide opportunities for advice, check-ins and studio visits.

Miller, herself a first-generation student from Cleveland Heights High School, recognized the value of serving as a Nunes Scholars mentor. “I’d like to help mentees feel more comfortable on campus and to encourage them to step out of their shells. I remember being a freshman—kind of shy and new to everything—and if I had a mentor, I would’ve functioned a lot better.”

“I feel like having someone who came from the same background as me, or the same race or same financial background as me, and having them say they managed to do it would've inspired me,” Miller adds. “I like being that inspiration for my mentees.”

The impact of the Nunes Scholars pre-orientation program is already being felt. All 14 students earned passing midterm grades and will return to CIA for spring semester, Jesse Grant says, adding that Nunes Scholars students are joining clubs and applying to be orientation leaders, resident assistants or Admissions ambassadors.

He also noted a parallel resurgence of CIA’s identity-based student clubs and organizations, like Latinx Appreciation Club, Color Wheel, and Black Scholars and Artists. “Those things help because they provide students with an opportunity to be in spaces with people who look like them. Representation clearly matters.”

For Imani Grant, lessons learned during the pre-orientation program have continued to pay dividends. “The most valuable part was the knowledge of the school and its environment that I gained in those three days. I’ve been actively trying to apply the advice that the mentors gave me throughout this semester.”

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