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Blue Ridge freshmen blazing trail to success

Blue Ridge Scholars
The Blue Ridge Scholars operate as a cohort, taking their courses together and learning as a unit from a multidisciplinary team of faculty and staff.

A group of 15 freshmen at the University of North Georgia's (UNG) Blue Ridge Campus were chosen for the inaugural Blue Ridge Scholars program, which provides first-time freshmen with integrated instruction and support.

The program fosters student success through strong faculty-student interactions, a service-learning component, individual appointments with an academic success coach, and an emphasis on leadership development.

"This program is providing opportunities for students that are hard to find elsewhere, and the program was designed to help the students achieve the cohort 'theme:' lead yourself, lead in your classroom, lead in your community,'" said Sandy Ott, director of UNG's Blue Ridge Campus. "When the faculty identify a specific need for a student in the cohort, they work together and with the academic success coach to develop custom programming to help that student."

Students in the Blue Ridge Scholars cohort attend full-time, taking a minimum of four courses each semester. The program is augmented with workshops led by faculty and staff to help students explore topics such as leadership development, career planning, college completion, and diversity issues. 

"This instructional method works really well, and the cohort format really helps for discussions and peer support," said Emily Powell, a scholar from Fannin County majoring in biology. "The faculty make time for us, and our academic success coach serves as a mentor and tutor, and provides resource support in helping us find jobs and service projects. For me, the most impactful experience has been the luncheons where we learn about different topics, such as suicide prevention and how to help others in crisis."

The Blue Ridge Scholars were selected based on high school GPA and extracurricular activities, and funding for the program is included in normal tuition. Next fall, Ott hopes a scholarship will be available for members of the program.

"There is a sense of community within the cohort that leads to greater accountability and support, and their education is happening inside and outside the classroom as they engage with each other and their community," Ott said.

UNG's Blue Ridge Campus opened in fall 2015 with an initial enrollment of 18 students. This fall, 112 students are enrolled at the campus. In addition to the Blue Ridge Scholars cohort, the campus offers dual-enrollment core curriculum courses for area high school students and core curriculum courses for adult learners who are beginning or returning to college. Online courses are also available.

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