Kupita helps incoming minority students transition to KSU

Amy Cooknick

Why students should care:

The Kupita program is an underutilized asset to all minority students at Kent State. It instills confidence in incoming students, who then transfer that confidence to all areas of campus life.

Incoming minority students experienced a first look at campus life this week through the Kupita/Transiciones orientation program.

Hosted by the Kent State Student Multicultural Center, Kupita is a four-day event designed to aid African-American, Latino-American and Native-American freshmen and transfer students in their transition to Kent State.

Nathaliah Carver, sophomore fashion merchandising major, was inspired by her freshman experience with Kupita to volunteer as a peer mentor this semester.

“I think it’s a really great program,” Carver said. “Those who have already been in this college help incoming freshmen who maybe might be first-generation college-goers, or they just really need help going to school and they need advice on how to navigate through Kent State’s campus ‘cause it’s their first time.”

Shana Lee, director of the Student Multicultural Center, said the program focuses on how students can successfully transition into college life and make the most of their time at Kent State. Kupita is a voluntary orientation unique to the university.

Students spend the week in peer teams based on their college. Upperclassmen lead the students from their respective colleges. In this way, new students become acquainted with faculty and staff on campus, as well as with other students.

Lee said 283 students attended Kupita this year, the highest number to date. She estimated this number to be nearly half the AALANA freshman population on campus this semester.

Michael Weisel, freshman exploratory major, said he learned a lot at Kupita about Kent State and what to expect from his time here, but would like to see changes in the program for future classes.

About Kupita/Transiciones

Kupita/Transiciones began in 1988 as an orientation program for African-American freshmen and transfer students, said Shana Lee, director of the Student Multicultural Center. The program has since evolved into a four-day multicultural event for all minority students at Kent State. The focus of the program is to highlight the issues faced by minority students on a predominantly white campus, and to equip those students with the resources needed to thrive at Kent State, Lee said.

“It’s been an amazing program,” Weisel said. “I learned a lot about Kent State, about what to do here and what not. But the past three days, I’ve learned about African American culture and Latino culture. I want to learn about my Native American heritage. So maybe in the future, more Native Americans (will) come and, if there’s enough, we can have more stuff for Native Americans.”

Lee said changes are being made to the program to make it more personalized for each of the three groups involved. This year was the first with a special reception for Latino students, and more specialized programs are in the plans for future classes.

“The purpose of the orientation is to orientate our AALANA students to campus from a culturally relevant perspective,” Lee said. “They get acclimated to the university and the campus where there’s absolutely nothing else going on, so we can concentrate on what their specific needs are.”

During the week, students attend presentations on topics such as advising, understanding the terminology of the university, getting involved on campus, keeping up with coursework, and achieving goals through graduation and beyond. Students also participate in cultural celebrations, such as an ethnic dance and food festival hosted in Oscar Ritchie Hall.

“I think the experience (the students) have is really personalized for them, so when school starts the following week, they’re prepared,” Lee said. “They get to meet the dean of their college, their RA, their RHD. They know where their classes are, and they’re very familiar with campus (after Kupita).”

“It’s helping (new students) understand school, how to get through it, how to graduate and keep a straight head on their path to graduation,” Carver said. “Have fun with it, but still your main goal is education and to get out of here and start a career.”

Contact Daily Kent Stater reporter Amy Cooknick at [email protected].