“New perspective” for US exchange students

Published 29/03/2024

Participants of the 2024 Sophomore Scholars Program, hosted by London Metropolitan University, feel the program has given them a “new perspective on life”.

Nine students travelled to the university’s London campus from the US, where they each study at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, to participate in the program.

Over one week, participants worked with students and staff, taking part in workshops on subjects such as identity, designing a socially-just institution as well as attending academic taster sessions.

The flagship program is part of London Metropolitan’s wider HBCU project, and sees the university partner with two to three students from each of its HBCU partners to come to London for a week for the immersive program.

“The whole point of the program is that it wouldn’t just impact a few students, it would impact our institutional practice and policy and therefore we can learn from HBCUs, embed that into our practice, and vice versa,” said Jennifer Wilkinson, director of student recruitment and business development at London Met.

“That then uplifts opportunities for all students, even if they never physically mobile.”

Wilkinson told The PIE an important part of the program is receiving feedback from the students on what London Met can do better as an institution, as this can improve outcomes for all students.

The program also sponsored members of staff from HBCU partnering institutions, who took part in roundtables, academic and professional services meetings, and attended the Diversity Abroad Global Inclusion Regional Summit.

At the end of the week, participating students from Claflin University, Morgan State University, Norfolk State University and Prairie View A&M University shared presentations covering the highlights of their time spent in the capital.

Nia, a computer science student from Prairie View A&M University said the program has opened her mind and given her “a new perspective on life”.

In an emotional speech, fellow participant, also named Nia, said communication skills and a new family of fellow HBCU students were among the biggest gains made for the Morgan State University student.

Other students highlighted a refreshed sense of self-empowerment and a deeper understanding of the struggles of people of colour both in the UK and the US.

London Metropolitan’s partnerships with HBCUs are part of a bigger strategy linked to the Centre for Equity and Inclusion and its Race Equity Strategic Plan.

It takes a holistic approach to improving student outcomes on both sides of the Atlantic through the development of student attainment, continuation rates and graduate outcomes.

As the initiative continues to grow and as new partners are introduced, Wilkinson explained to The PIE how a networked approach is key to its success and sustainability by connecting respective teams at each university with each other, academics to academics for example.

“There’s a network there so even if in the future things change, it’s a fundamental part of who we are and that we are already connected with people at all levels,” she said.

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