SOAR program offers head start to serve needs for incoming group, families

Leaders expect 20-25 participants in expanded August offerings; focus is to boost success among student cohorts including BIPOC, first generation, modest income and those with disabilities

July 12, 2022
By Elizabeth Syverson '23
Churcher 2021

Last year’s 2021 SOAR participants in these file photos check out sites around greater Burlington, including Church Street here and Winooski in the large top photo.

For the past 18 years (with the exception of 2020 when the program was held virtually and over a series of multiple weekly sessions) SOAR has welcomed BIPOC, first generation, modest-income background, and students with disabilities to campus to get a head-start on their first year at Saint Michael’s College. This year SOAR will run from August 17 through August 25, the longest program to date, with an expected 20-25 participants.


Outdoor adventures are popular with the SOAR visitors.

The acronym stands for Summer Orientation for Academic Excellence and Retention and aims to help students become acquainted with the campus, local area, academics, and their peers, all before the first day of orientation. Students will participate in a wide array of activities such as a day with the Adventure Sports Center, a session about financial aid and literacy, a discussion with an academic success panel, and lunches or dinners with various departments on campus such as the Dean’s Office, Public Safety, and the BIPOC Faculty and Staff Group.

With the success of students in mind, the Center for Multicultural Affairs and Services (CMAS) has implemented three major adjustments to SOAR within the past two years. First, the program now invites the family members of the students to attend for the first two days.


Creemees by Burlington’s waterfront in 2021.

Second, leaders have moved the program from mid-July to mid-August, allowing participants to move into their academic housing placements earlier. The program also continues to expand the time students have on campus through SOAR — originally it was four days, in 2021 it ran five  days, and this year it will be eight days, giving students more time to settle in and gain comfort.

Interested students must apply by July 15. Staff in the CMAS will review the applications and make selections. According to Choeden Lama, assistant director of CMAS, the application includes questions that aim to gauge an applicant’s interest in connecting with students, faculty, and staff, participating in team-bonding activities and conversations, and acquainting themselves with both the College and the local multicultural community. In addition, Lama said that the CMAS looks for students who value inclusivity and cultural diversity.

durick group

The full 2021 SOAR gang on Durick Library steps.

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