Ryan Hassler, associate teaching professor of mathematics, and Sonia Delaquito, learning center coordinator, were invited to present at the Annual Conference on The First-Year Experience, which was held virtually Feb. 15 to 19. Their session titled “Developing an Institution’s College Readiness Plan: Fostering K-20 Collaborations” expanded upon their previous year presentation to include specifics related to college readiness in the COVID-19 era.
Both Hassler and Delaquito have observed the challenge of college readiness and are collaborating to become part of a long-term solution. Their passion for engagement is evident through various outreach endeavors in which they have partnered with local K-12 educators in Berks County, as well as students at Penn State Berks.
“Colleges and universities know that students are coming to college under-prepared, and while they have developed responses such as the first-year seminar and first-year experience, some students need earlier interventions to be successful, so we look to proactively and comprehensively partner with our local K-12 constituents,” states Delaquito.
Examples of programs that Hassler and Delaquito have led that serve as a conduit between Penn State Berks and the community include: partnerships with the Berks County Intermediate Unit STEM Network, and most recently, the Penn State Berks LionSide Chats, a modern interpretation of President Roosevelt’s Depression-era “Fireside Chats” in which faculty and staff experts provide current and timely talks on a variety of topics and disciplines.
In addition, they have established the Penn State Berks Center for STEAM Outreach and Collaboration, which strives to develop a community of educators, researchers, industry leaders and local community members devoted to supporting and strengthening awareness and participation in STEAM-related programs across K-20 curriculums.
Prior to joining Penn State Berks, Hassler was a math teacher at Wyomissing High School. Through his experience, he has helped students in both high school and college to transition to higher education.
At Penn State Berks, Hassler coordinates the Engineering Ahead Program, a four-week summer “bridge” program, designed to increase retention rates among a diverse group of engineering students by enhancing academic preparedness.
Currently, Hassler and Delaquito are attempting to extend their proactive reach into the national K-12 setting.
“Our intention is to educate and inform on a national level, and based on our session attendance at the 2020 and 2021 FYE conference, our colleagues and educators around the country are realizing the value of tapping into these K-12 student populations prior to college entry,” explains Hassler. “We strive to empower and engage our educators and pre-college students so that we can achieve successful outcomes.”
About the Annual Conference on The First-Year Experience
The Annual Conference on The First-Year Experience provides an ongoing forum where higher education professionals can share experiences, concerns, and accomplishments related to supporting student learning, development, and success in the first college year. It is presented by the National Resource Center for The First-Year Experience and Students in Transition, University of South Carolina.