LEWISBURG, Pa. – A group of high school students will get a taste of campus life this weekend as Bucknell University hosts a program to promote leadership and success among talented students from across the nation.
The conference, "Issues of the 21st Century," is geared toward high school students interested in attending Bucknell who have shown leadership skills and a commitment to academic excellence. Reflecting the many forms of diversity in the United States, these future leaders will have an opportunity to explore the challenges and implications of one of the most compelling issues for their generation: food.
The events begin at noon Friday and continue Saturday.
"Our desire is to have a large group of faculty participate in events and discussions," said Carl Milofsky, a professor of sociology at Bucknell who will lead discussions about the role of meal preparation in the organization of families and how to design a diet for a small planet without wasting food and contributing to world hunger.
Now in its fourth year, "Issues" is an outgrowth of overnight visits offered by the Office of Admissions. The conference has evolved into an opportunity for interested high school students to explore in an inclusive environment issues they may encounter in their professional future, said Rolando Arroyo-Sucre, Bucknell's chief officer for diversity and equity.
"Implementing this innovative, interactive learning model in which Bucknell faculty and students work with high school students may result in the development of a model that could be used in working with high school students across the country," Arroyo-Sucre said. "The challenge of inclusiveness is to find ways to acquire the skills that lead us to foster a culture that embraces everyone."
Twenty Bucknell Presidential Scholars, who are students in the top 2 percent of their class academically, have volunteered to serve as peer mentors for the 120 conference participants. The high school students will visit classrooms and attend sessions exploring food from the perspectives of various disciplines, such as the biology of food, the sociology of food and food in literature.
Among the conference speakers is Gary A. Sojka, who served as president of Bucknell from 1984 to 1995 and is a professor emeritus of biology.
Taking advantage of current technology and responding to its impact upon youth culture, the conference will integrate a virtual environment with the classroom experience, Arroyo-Sucre said. Before, during and after the two-day conference, participants and their peer mentors will form study teams and communicate through an online program called Blackboard. Replicating the experience of Facebook and MySpace, the teams will share photos, videos and course materials and discuss readings about our changing global environment.
Amy V. Ramirez Rodriguez, a Bucknell junior who is helping to coordinate the conference, said this year's program will serve as a test run and model for a yearlong program targeting younger high school students. The idea is to provide students with the tools they need to pursue an education at a small, private liberal arts university such as Bucknell.
"There are many programs that take a Head Start approach but few institutions that do it," Rodriguez said. "The program doesn't intend to have every student come to Bucknell but to come to a competitive institution."
The program will coincide with the 2008 Black and Latino Male Conference, also at Bucknell this weekend. That conference will focus on issues encountered by black and Latino males in higher education and the implications of Barack Obama's election as the nation's first African-American president upon the opportunities and challenges that these students encounter.
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