I Am A STAR(S) and You Might Be, Too!

Imagine this:

You have been accepted to WashU. Maybe you were sitting in the car and read the email there…or you were leaving your job, just as I was, and saw the email as you walked to the bus stop. Your heart jumps in excitement and you can barely believe it–but then again, four years of high school stress confirms that, in fact, you did earn this opportunity. OK, moving on, a few weeks down the line, you receive a packet in the mail. You glance at the envelope and read the words “Deneb STARS Program” someplace on the perimeter. If you receive this letter, consider yourself invited to one of the most amazing student engagement programs at Washington University. As a Deneb, I have nothing but high respect for the Deneb Stars Program and its commitment to my overall success as a student at WashU.

My goal of writing this piece is to give recently admitted and Deneb-invited students a closer look into student success and support that is accessible through Deneb STARS. I immediately developed friendships with incoming first-years and upperclassmen, along with coming to appreciate my APM (Aspirational Peer Mentor) and her consistency with meeting biweekly for check-ins. There are peer-led office hours for help in a variety of subjects, a catalog of free textbooks to use each semester, and a private study lounge. We also have monthly Pod meetings, in which different faculty, alumni, and speakers come in to offer us guidance on navigating college and careers during and after graduation.

…On a quest to gain more insight about the Deneb STARS Scholar Program, I decided to speak to some of the minds who assemble and organize the program. I realize that understanding more about Deneb STARS entails learning more about the people who created Deneb from scratch and continue to innovate the program for its students.

I am headed to office hours, well on February 28th I was, to meet with Mr. Tillman–The Assistant Provost for the Office of Student Success. When I asked Mr. Tillman to tell me something that he believes a prospective Deneb, who receives that bulky information in the mail should know, he had some profound things to say.

He starts by sharing that a student in Deneb has the opportunity to be a part of a cohort-based community of support that will help with one’s transitioning from high school to college. Deneb will help them to reach their individual full potential and provide them with pathways to friendships, as Deneb establishes a sense of family through the Early Arrivals Program, APMs, SPCs, pod meetings, retreats, and so on. He expresses that Deneb plans on helping its members navigate being a student in this kind of educational environment, by picking you up when you stumble and assessing where to go from there. “We aim to ensure that every student knows that they have access and that there will always be someone there to help and support them.”

I also had a chance to sit down with Lucy Chin, the Coordinator for the Office of Student Success. Lucy has worked with Deneb for two of the program’s three years of existence. She was appointed by Mr. Tillman upon her May 2017 graduation after having worked as a student in the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement. She has been an amazing coordinator, resource, and asset to the program. This is her final year working with the program, as she goes on to enroll in graduate study for social work and community development. Thus, I wanted to give Lucy a chance to reflect on what she has witnessed Deneb provide for student growth, and also what Deneb has provided for her own experience as Coordinator and understanding of community development.

As I sat down with Lucy Chin and asked her to share what vital information she wants to share with prospective Denebies, she said that it would be difficult to “quantify and describe” the Deneb STARS Program in a few words. Nonetheless, she attempted to describe the program saying that Deneb is a “network/home-base type of community that remains consistent in terms of great support, transitional guidance, and mentorship.” She considers Deneb a unique space that is open for all questions. The program is designed to accommodate the entirety of a student, not just their academic needs, as it also provides social resources for them to acclimate to WashU and the community.

I asked Lucy about the logistics of Deneb organizing funds for group trips and events on and off campus, and she reveals that the “Student Program Coordinators seek out events that can be funded through our programming budget.” Deneb has offered free tickets to attend Black Anthology, The Lunar New Year Festival, and Carnaval–student theatre showcases. It is always a special time going out in these groups, especially since many of the Denebies perform in these shows. Finally, to conclude her spiel on Deneb, Lucy classifies Deneb as a “dynamic program that is not one-size fits all”, because of its effort to accommodate each student.

If you have been invited to join one of the most resourceful student engagement systems at Washington University and are considering enrolling in the upcoming class, you have a chance to meet with current Deneb STARS this Spring! Below I have listed dates for the meet and greets that allow you, perspective students and parents, the opportunity to meet the Deneb community. I plan on coming to one of the dates, and, hopefully, I can tell you more about Deneb in person!

Meet and Greet Current Deneb STARS: Chat with Deneb STARS students at various times on April 4, April 5, April 14, April 15, or April 22! We’ll tell you more about the great program that is Deneb STARS!

Until next time: Have a beautiful day!!

*These interviews have been paraphrased with some specific diction retained.