Hobart and William Smith became one of the first institutions in the nation to establish an academic opportunity program when the Colleges signed on to New York State’s Higher Education Opportunity Program in 1969. The program is designed to support students of high potential who, because of academic and economic circumstances, would otherwise be unable to pursue a college education.
“The first graduating class was in 1973, and the program has been going strong ever since,” says James Burruto, who has directed the HWS Office of Academic Opportunity Programming, including the Colleges’ HEOP, since 2004. “The HEOP program in New York was a model for access programs across the country, and served as the major driver for the increase in the number of students from Black and Hispanic backgrounds at the Colleges for many, many years.”
Indeed, nearly a quarter of all alums of color came to HWS through the HEOP program.
In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Colleges’ participation in what is now known as the Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program, HWS will host a reception on Thursday, Nov. 14 at Alvin & Friends, a Caribbean and soul food restaurant located at 14 Memorial Hwy, New Rochelle, N.Y.
The event, which will begin at 6 p.m., is sponsored by the Office of Academic Opportunity Programs and the Afro Latino Alumni and Alumnae Association, with leadership from the host committee, Jawad A. Cipriani ’08, Algrin A. Flowers ’91, Barre C. Hamp ’90 and Phylicia Robinson Dove ’09.
On Saturday, Dec. 7, HWS will commemorate the HEOP 50th anniversary on campus with a red carpet celebration in the Bartlett Theatre, sponsored by student clubs and organizations.
HEOP is the longest running education access and support program of its kind in the United States. In 1967, through the authorship and advocacy of Assemblymen Arthur O. Eve P’89, L.H.D.’10, the New York State Legislature established HEOP, which was implemented at HWS in 1969. The HEOP program — which created a model for newer initiatives — continues to admit and support students who present an alternate academic profile and who demonstrate high potential to compete successfully in an academically competitive environment.
At HWS, the Academic Opportunity Programs staff provides academic counseling, academic and personal support to more than 75 students each year. From the five-week faculty-led summer program for incoming HEOP students, to the ongoing mentoring by staff, the program remains “a huge deal for our students to further develop their academic skills and acclimate to HWS,” Burruto says.
To date, approximately 1,000 students have attended HWS through HEOP, including many who “gravitate to leadership positions on campus. Club leadership, student government, study mentors, teaching fellows — our students are very engaged in the fabric of the institution and the academic endeavor here,” Burruto says.
Edith Wormley, associate director of the Academic Opportunity Programs office, has been with the HWS HEOP program for over 30 years and has “had the pleasure to work with legacy students and hear how their parents acknowledge that their experience at [HEOP] HWS was positive and would like to further that to new generations.”
In her role, Wormley also helped bring academic opportunities to inmates at Elmira Correctional Facility, offering them the chance to earn a bachelor’s degree until state funding shortfalls forced the program’s cancellation.
HEOP’s growth and longevity on campus, as well as the support from faculty and the various administrations over the years, “shows the commitment on the part of the institution,” Burruto says. “One of our shining attributes is how supportive HWS has been of the program and students.”
At a 2017 HEOP conference, the Colleges’ social justice theatre company, Mosaic NY, performed a 15-minute script based on the experiences of HWS HEOP students, dramatizing how the program supports students as well as some of the challenges they may face while in college.
In early November, HWS HEOP staff will visit Albany for the program’s annual conference, where the state will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the program.
The 2013 group photo featured above was taken during a summer HEOP program at the Scandling Campus Center.