Like most students on their first day at college, Conner Herriges was facing the “new student jitters.”
Fortunately for Herriges, he did not have to face them alone.
Herriges is among the first students who are taking advantage of a new program at Southwestern that is funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Last spring, the foundation gave Southwestern a $450,000 grant to help support transfer students from Austin Community College. Four students have enrolled at Southwestern this spring as a result of the program and 12 more are expected to start in the fall.
Herriges said he had not thought about Southwestern until he received an email from Amy Grosso, who is the director of the new program. Grosso had written Herriges and all other ACC students who are in the national community college honor society, Phi Theta Kappa.
“I fell in love with the campus when I saw it,” Herriges said. “The small class sizes really grabbed my attention.”
Herriges, who served in the Army for nine years, is attending Southwestern with help from the GI bill. He hopes to earn a degree in computer science. Grosso has paired him with a fellow veteran and transfer student, Arun Jacob, to serve as a mentor.
“I can foresee that being very helpful,” Herriges said. Grosso also plans to meet with Herriges regularly to answer any questions he may have.
Other students in the first cohort of the ACC program include Shelby Alvarez, a mother of two who wants to become a high school biology teacher; Bertha Faudoa, who is the first in her family to attend college; and Audrey Tarmann, whose husband is already a student at Southwestern. Both Faudoa and Tarmann plan to major in psychology.
All four joined other transfer students Jan. 11 for a tour of campus, a lunch with professors who teach the Advanced Entry Seminars, and sessions with representatives from the Center for Academic Success and Records, Career Services and Student Life. The group finished the day with dinner at the Monument Café.
While Grosso is based at Southwestern, ACC representative David DeRouen works to recruit students who might be a good fit for the new program and provides academic advising to potential transfers. DeRouen said the program is getting a good reception at ACC.
“This is a natural extension of our relationship with Southwestern,” he said. Southwestern already has a program in place that grants automatic admission to ACC students who follow certain guidelines.
As the first in his family to go to college and as an Air Force veteran, DeRouen said he can relate to many of the students who are applying for the new program. He also received his undergraduate degree from a small private college.
“I try to bring my experience to this grant,” DeRouen said.
DeRouen was part of the committee that wrote the proposal for the grant and hired Grosso to run the new program. “Amy is a perfect fit for this program,” he said. “She has a unique understanding of these students and what they are going to go through. Empathy is really important in programs like this.”
Grosso earned a Ph.D. in counseling and counselor education and worked as a mental health counselor for three years before moving to Georgetown with her husband last year.
“I love working with students who don’t have the same path as everyone else,” she said.
After a semester of laying the groundwork for the new program, Grosso said it is nice to finally have students on campus.
“It is really inspiring to see how much these students have to offer our campus,” she said. “This isn’t just about them coming here to get – they have a lot to give.”