Hartwick Students SOAR During J Term

February 3, 2016

Five Hartwick College students spent part of January in New York City, meeting high-powered executives, taking in the city’s arts and cultural scene, and obtaining valuable work experience at non-profit organizations.

It was all part of the “It Takes a City” J Term course, taught via the College’s Start Out Academics Right (SOAR) Program, a grant-funded curriculum for first-generation and underrepresented students.

SOAR is designed to help students maximize potential, learn valuable academic study strategies to prepare for upper-level work, and ease their transition and acclimation to college life. The program is funded by a two-year grant from the Booth Ferris Foundation.

The focus of the J Term class was to study how a community’s needs are met, from healthcare to education to the arts.

“Exposure to all kinds of situations, that was the goal,” said Global Education and Service Learning Advisor Carolyn Cooper, the course instructor who also accompanied the students to New York. “We designed the course with high-impact practices to ensure students would get that exposure, and learn about resilience and independence.”

Prior to the trip, the students spent several days in the classroom with Cooper, studying service and experiential learning, and honing skills that they would need in New York, like networking and dressing to make an impression. They also took area field trips to see how community needs are met in a rural setting.

Then it was off to New York for 10 days to get a closer look at how a major city cares for its own. For some of the SOAR students, this was their first glimpse into big city life.

Once in New York, days were filled with morning classes, and afternoons of service-learning at non-profits across the city. The Presbyterian Mission to the U.N., March of Dimes, Free Arts NYC, and Manhattan East School for Arts & Academics all hosted the students; some also employ Hartwick alumni.

At night, the SOAR students connected with successful Hartwick alumni, to glean business and career advice, and further develop the skills they had been studying.

Richard Clarkson ’86 of Deutsche Bank met with the students, as did Lisa Mayer ’05, CEO of the social enterprise fashion company,, and several others. Judy H’13 and Allen Freedman H’00 even treated the students to a night of alternative opera.

“We can’t thank our alumni network enough,” said Cooper. “They really were all wonderful hosts for our students. In fact, when one of the non-profits had to back out at the last minute, four different alumni stepped up to offer ten-day internships with their own organizations.”

First-year student Silvina Jacobo from Brockport, NY took part in the course, and worked at Free Arts NYC, which provides underserved children and families with educational arts and mentoring programs that promote self-confidence and resiliency. For Free Arts NYC, Jacobo packed materials for distribution, and even helped translate specialized books and other documents.

“Throughout the whole course, we were expected to communicate with different individuals and even some Hartwick alumni,” she said. “This helped me gain self-confidence and even come out of my comfort zone. I was always intimidated by very authoritative individuals but I learned through this class that many of them just want to know about you, and you have to stand tall and not let shyness get in the way.

“I am positive that I will be able to use the skills that I enhanced during the course in the future,” she added.

Once back on campus, the class wasted little time in preparing final case studies and project presentations based on their experiences.

Although the course is over, the SOAR students will work continue to work with Cooper and Director of Career Services Melissa Marietta to update their resumes to reflect their time in New York, as well as plan second semester goals.

“The J Term course has been invaluable for our students, and we hope to do it again next year,” said Cooper. “The real measure of its success, however, will be realized as they take those skills and apply them throughout the balance of the school year and beyond.”

For more information on SOAR, contact Director of SOAR and AccessAbility Services Erin Braselmann at (607) 431-4467 or