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Colorado youth get a look inside MSU Denver

Staff members partner with CDHE to make preorientation services and resources accessible to students across the state.

By Lindsey Coulter

April 30, 2019

High school students watching an orientation webinar on a laptopColorado GEAR UP recently tapped into Metropolitan State University of Denver expertise to help youth take early steps toward higher education. The Colorado Department of Higher Education precollegiate service program helps prepare low-income and first-generation students to meet the high expectations for high school graduation and college admission, and found an ideal partner in MSU Denver.

Lauren Koppel, assistant director of Scholarship Support and Retention, and Scott Bergman, coordinator of Summer Bridge programming, developed a preorientation session for GEAR UP’s youth participants hosted on the MSU Denver campus. The daylong event was initially designed as an in-person preorientation to college life, but Koppel and Bergman saw even greater potential.

“GEAR UP youth are spread across the state, and getting all of them to campus would not be feasible for the organization,” said Koppel and Bergman. “In an effort to reach all youth, not just the ones in the Denver metro area, the idea of having an abbreviated session in the form of a webinar came up.”

GEAR UP officials were enthusiastic about the idea and worked with Koppel and Bergman to create supplemental materials to help distance students get the most out of the experience. Students were able to complete financial-aid files, apply for scholarships and more in advance of the event, giving them greater context.

Koppel and Bergman also tapped into the skills and expertise of MSU Denver’s ITS team, working with David Sharman to find the ideal webinar platform. Sharman provided training on the platform, as well as tech support during the event. Ultimately, the adapted format allowed 30 students from 10 high schools across Pueblo, Alamosa, Fort Morgan and metro Denver to get a taste of life as an MSU Denver student.

Participating students enjoyed an impressive level of access to the University. The April 11 event included a virtual campus tour led by a peer mentor as well as short videos of various staff members discussing their campus roles and the supports and services offered by their respective departments. A student panel allowed youth participants to participate in a real-time Q&A session, and viewers even got a peek at the Student Hub.

GEAR UP counselors had excellent feedback, calling the webinar well-organized and authentic, and noted, “Wish we could have this for more schools.”

“It was a true collaborative event and provided an opportunity to meet students where they are,” Bergman said. “It sparked a lot of conversation around how to utilize technology to make these kinds of interactions more accessible to students who cannot make it to campus or are entirely online students.”

The webinar was recorded for use with other community partners, and MSU Denver is excited about opportunities to showcase the campus to future Roadrunners. To learn more, contact Koppel or Bergman.

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