Among the Geneseo students who are characterized as multicultural, roughly 500 students participate in the Access Opportunity Programs, addressing one of the common misperceptions about AOP and its students: Not all students of color on campus are accepted through AOP. AOP students are from all backgrounds, making this different from affirmative action, according to AOP Director & Coordinator of Admissions Calvin Gantt.
Gantt described affirmative action as providing fair consideration for the same exact job to individuals. AOP, he said, looks at the big picture: the whole student.
“I'm looking at extenuating circumstances that may have impacted a student’s ability to perform in high school, taking those types of things into consideration,” he said.
Such factors include family obligations, such as taking leaves of absences to interpret for their family members at home and working to provide enough money to support their families. These factors are also considered while attending Geneseo.
Gantt further emphasized that AOP is not affirmative action because students aren’t just given a spot.
All AOP students must successfully complete a month-long program during the summer before they are officially accepted into Geneseo. Both classes and lectures are offered, including mathematics and INTD 105: Writing Seminar.
The summer program helps more than the academic transition, though, adjunct lecturer of mathematics Aimee Rose said. She has taught the past six summers and sees how, similarly to all incoming freshmen, AOP students face the challenge of adjusting to college life.
“They have that four-week period to adjust to campus life, and being independent of their parents and also becoming a little bit more familiar with how to manage their time,” she said.
Aside from the summer program, AOP students must fulfill additional requirements depending on the specific program.
The distinction between EOP and TOP
The department is divided between two programs: the Arthur Eve Educational Opportunity Program and the Transitional Opportunity Program.
EOP was introduced to the State University of New York system in 1968 to provide higher education opportunities to “traditionally by-passed” New York State residents, according to Geneseo’s AOP website.
According to the same website, AOP aims to support “historically, underrepresented minority group students.” At Geneseo, however, 50 percent of EOP students are not students of color.
Since it is a state-supported program, New York State sets the guidelines, Gantt said. Both academic and financial criteria are examined for admissions, such as grade point average, SAT scores, New York State residency status and household income.
But just because of their lower financial status, AOP students do not receive a free ride to Geneseo, as some perceive, Gantt said.
EOP students receive a $1,500 grant from the state each academic year to help with expenses. TOP students, though, must pay an additional $1,250 in fees to cover housing, meals, materials and academic advisement during the summer program.
TOP, on the other hand, is Geneseo-specific. Created in 1985, Associate Vice President for Enrollment William Caren and the late former AOP Director Isom Fearn looked at which students were denied from both AOP and general admissions and found that “there was a relatively large population of underrepresented students that were talented students … [but] they just didn’t meet the entrance requirements for Geneseo,” Gantt said.
As a result, TOP addressed the lack of underrepresented students and attempted to diversify the campus.
The program has expanded since, welcoming other underrepresented students, including new immigrants with less than six years in the United States and adult students 24 years and older. TOP is opening the program to first-generation college students and those from rural school districts next year.
“It’s really a catch-all program to really, I think, have the campus more reflective of the diversity of New York State as it exists,” Gantt said.
A “tough love” family
After AOP students decide to attend Geneseo, one of the main objectives of the department, Gantt said, is to provide a support system away from home.
Academic growth along with personal growth is reinforced through mentor programs and student development initiatives, Men Incorporating Leadership Empowerment and Service, Women’s Leadership Institute, Minority Association of Pre-Health Students and Chi Alpha Epsilon honor society.
Gantt said AOP students are challenged, resulting in “a lot of tough love that happens in this program, but in the end … it [is] a family.
That tough love doesn’t drive AOP students away. For some, including WLI student advisor senior Klarissa Garcia, the department is the “default place to go,” home to some of these students’ most meaningful relationships from college.
“It’s something I am going to take with me and has made me who I am today just because they’re consistent and you always need that in college, to have that one person who’s always there,” she said.
Corrections: The print story as appeared in the Nov. 14 issue misstated the EOP title. Geneseo has the Arthur Eve Educational Opportunity Program, while private schools have the Arthur Eve Higher Educational Opportunity Program. Not all AOP students pay the $1,250 in fees for the summer program. EOP students' fees are covered by New York State.
Additions: Geneseo's TOP program was also facilitated by Associate Vice President for Enrollment William Caren, in addition to the late former AOP Director Isom Fearn.