In the fall the College of Liberal & Creative Arts unveiled its version of San Francisco State’s Metro Academy program, focused on retention of underserved undergraduate students. Social Justice Coordinator Soumyaa Kapil Behrens describes the program as “a private school within a public school,” where incoming students can get personalized attention, build community and gain the educational tools necessary to help bring about a more equitable society.
The original San Francisco State Metro Academy was the brainchild of Mary Beth Love, chair and professor of Health Education. The program began seven years ago as part of the Health Education and Child and Adolescent Development departments, and quickly spread to the colleges of Ethnic Studies, and Science and Engineering, before its launch this year at the College of Liberal & Creative Arts.
Professors in the program collaborate across disciplines to ensure that each class builds on others in the sequence, and students are guaranteed to have several classes with fellows in the program. This collaborative structure is intended to help foster the bonds and support needed for a successful college experience, as well as provide the students with an interdisciplinary learning experience that fosters critical thinking. This extra support has produced retention rates as much as two times higher than average, as well as significant gains in GPA, according to an analysis of data from SF State and City College.
“Metro is there for you,” freshman Atziri Tirado said of the program. “You know that if you need any help you can just go and ask.” Tirado, a San Francisco native, hasn’t declared her major yet, but plans to pursue a career in forensic science.
Applications to the Metro Academy are made through a simple online application on the program’s website, once students have been accepted to SF State. The program is on a space-available basis, with a maximum of 70 students per year, and anyone with an interest in social justice, willing to make a two year commitment to the program is welcome to apply. “Excellence in education, equity in education and social justice are really the main focus of our academy,” says Behrens, who also teaches Cinema classes.
Though the program only lasts for the first two years of their college career, past participants of the program have asked to remain active in the Metro Academy community after their sophomore year. Faculty are exploring ways to make this possible, and are considering community events and internships for Metro Academy graduates.
Photo: Students Jessica Wallace, Isaac Zepeda, Liza Munoz, Nicole Segura and Alex Micalef form a human knot. Photo by Hannah Anderson.