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The Mass Media

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March 4, 2024
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An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
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Asian-American Student Success Program with Sara Boxell

On Oct. 16, Sara Boxell, Director of the Asian-American Student Success Program at the University of Massachusetts Boston, sat down for an interview about the student success program.
Claire Speredelozzi: What is the Asian-American Student Success Program?
Sara Boxell: The Asian-American Student Success Program is an academic support program and we basically help students with all sorts of things. To help them come into college, we have a bunch of partnership programs with local high schools and nonprofits in the community because our first goal is to help increase the number of Asian-American students who are coming to UMass Boston. The second goal of our program is to help provide students with whatever support that they need to make sure that they’re passing their classes, doing well in their classes, so that eventually down the road they graduate. So, a lot of the services that we offer to support that second goal, of supporting increasing graduation rates, are our tutoring program, a mentoring program, and a career development workshop series. So, I think one thing that sets us apart from a lot of what people tend to think of as being academic support programs is that we offer services to help ensure that students are succeeding, not just in their classes but also to make sure that they’re getting connected socially, they’re succeeding socially, professionally, and in all areas of their life instead of just making sure they’re getting good grades for example.
CS: So, what I noticed with CLA First!, it’s only freshmen. Is yours only freshmen or can you graduate throughout it?
SB: Nope! So, we serve all students. The majority of our students we serve, I would say, are Asian-American students. A lot of them are the first in their families to go to college. A lot of them are from ethnic groups that are otherwise underrepresented in higher education. So, like a lot of Southeast Asian-American students, for example, like Vietnamese-American students, Cambodian-American students. But yeah, we also don’t turn anybody away. Anybody who wants to come get services from us, you certainly don’t have to be Asian-American. We have no limits in terms of GPA, or in terms of class year, or in terms of major, to be involved in the program.
CS: With mentoring, do you have advisors? What do you mean by mentoring?
SB: Peer mentoring actually! A peer mentoring program which I think a lot of the other success programs you’ve talked to have as well. We have usually between 10 and 12 peer mentors every year. We pair new, incoming students with all of our peer mentors. That can be first-time freshmen, we got some transfer students. So, the peer mentors help them, make sure they’re getting connected on campus, make sure they’re getting any of their questions answered with things like financial aid, major requirements, all those things like that. We don’t expect the peer mentors to know everything, obviously. But basically, the peer mentors’ role is to connect the students to people that do know the answers. Get them a sense of belonging.
CS: You’re director, correct? What’s your role as director?
SB: It’s a new role for me as director as of a month ago. Before that, I was the program coordinator. As the director, I mean, I really oversee all of the different programs that are going on because we run all of them.
Outreach is also a big part of the Asian-American Student Success Program. Each member of the office works with high school– and middle school–aged kids in the surrounding area. They offer tutoring within different centers such as the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (BCNC) in their Quincy location. Along with tutoring, AASSP has summer programs that mostly work with middle-schoolers. They bring in their different partnerships to UMass Boston for campus tours.