High Schoolers’ Visits to UT Libraries Boost College Attendance

This summer, the John C. Hodges Library is hosting two programs that seek to prepare students from disadvantaged backgrounds to succeed in college.

Engaging with the community is part of the University of Tennessee’s land-grant mission of research, teaching, and outreach. Over the past decade, the UT Libraries’ office of Community Learning Services and Diversity Programs has collaborated with local initiatives such as Project GRAD and PiPES whose mission is to improve college attendance and academic success.

When high school students visit campus, an introduction to college-level research in a university library is part of gaining experience in an academic setting. Faculty and staff from several UT Libraries units are teaching library research skills to visiting high schoolers this summer: Michelle Brannen, Thura Mack, Kate Shepas, Christy Urquieta Cortes, and Megan Venable.

“A number of the Project GRAD students I met last week will be attending UT in the fall. Engaging those students in information literacy activities provides a timely foundation for the rigorous standards of university coursework,” said Thura Mack, who heads Community Learning Services and Diversity Programs at UT Libraries.

The Project GRAD Summer Institute brings Knoxville inner-city high school students to campus for a week-long immersion in college life and coursework. Two cohorts of students from Fulton and Austin-East Magnet High Schools study and live on campus for a week. The Summer Institute exposes students to the academic expectations of college and helps them think critically about college as a viable possibility.

PiPES (Possibilities in Postsecondary Education and Science) offers tenth- and eleventh-graders from rural East Tennessee counties an on-campus experience and opportunities to explore STEMM (science, technology, engineering, math, and medical science) careers. The PiPES Explorers Camp brings more than 100 students to campus over a four-day period to see what college is like. Students tour the main and agriculture campuses, visit STEMM labs, attend presentations by guest speakers, and engage in a scavenger hunt.

“This was the first year Hodges Library was included in the PiPES scavenger hunt, and I absolutely loved being able to be the enthusiastic face of UT Libraries for these high school students!” said social sciences librarian Calantha Tillotson. “They were excited about all the cool study spaces and events the library has to offer, especially the Game Nights. I can’t wait to see them hopefully return as UT students in the coming semesters.”

Both Project GRAD and PiPES are programs of UT’s College of Education, Health and Human Sciences.