UConn Waterbury Students to Get Help Adjusting to College, Thanks to Mayor’s Fundraiser

The event raised about $500,000 for student success programs at UConn’s Waterbury campus

UConn Waterbury at night

(Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

Waterbury public school students who enroll in UConn’s Waterbury campus will get some help transitioning to and navigating college life, thanks to a series of planned programs set to begin as early as this summer.

A comprehensive set of student success programs will give incoming, first-year students a jump-start on college by connecting them through a summer bridge program, like the campus’s Center for Access and Postsecondary Success (CAPS). The CAPS program gives first-generation and socioeconomically disadvantaged students advice, support, and mentoring the summer before and during their college years. Other programs will provide counseling, tutoring, experiential learning, and other opportunities for students already on campus, according to Fumiko Hoeft, campus dean and chief administrative officer of the UConn Waterbury campus and psychological sciences professor.

The planned programs are possible due to the generous support of many who donated to a recent fundraiser in honor of Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary’s retirement. O’Leary, a staunch supporter of Waterbury, where he served as mayor for 12 years, wanted to provide support to help local students succeed after high school graduation. The event raised about $500,000 for student success programs at UConn’s Waterbury campus.

The program will target approximately 25 percent of the 750 undergraduates on campus who come from Waterbury. Most are first-generation students who come from families where neither parent nor guardian has a four-year degree or higher from a college or university.

“The summer bridge program is helpful because students can get a head start even before they start college. It is also a nice complement to the already successful Waterbury Promise program that started in the fall of 2022. It provides financial support for Waterbury students to go to UConn or other Connecticut-based colleges and universities,” Hoeft explains.

We know that a sense of belonging is very important for student success, whether it’s through cultural activities, experiential learning, service learning, or having a paid job on campus. In addition, extra tutoring and coaching to develop soft skills, such as leadership and organizational skills. All these programs will help students succeed,” she says.

Ultimately, she hopes the new support programs will help raise the six-year graduation rate on campus, which currently hovers around 60 percent.

Tadarrayl M. Starke, UConn’s associate vice provost for student success, says the new programs, including the expanded CAPS program, will provide critical support to help students succeed.

“CAPS has been an instrumental part of the student success fabric at Waterbury since 1971,” Stakes says. “We have been able to help countless numbers of Waterbury students transition to and navigate their journey at UConn. Our summer bridge program, in particular, has helped so many students get a jumpstart on their college careers as Huskies. We are looking forward to expanding our ability to help students feel connected to the campus and succeed both in and out of the classroom.”