Fall Winter 07

The Core


Summer in the City

In Fermi’s Footsteps

Seeds of Change


Editor's Note

Vox Populi

Science Beyond Boundaries

Supporting Students as They Are

Summer Stock

Head of the Class

Geeking Out

Goin' West

Go Ask Alumni

Editor's Note

Thinking CAAP

The talk of the quads this autumn is the Odyssey Scholarship Program, launched by an anonymous College alumnus’ stunning $100 million gift last June. Perhaps the quietest facet of the gift from Homer—as the donor has been dubbed—is that it will expand and enhance a summer program that has operated since 1984, the Chicago Academic Achievement Program (CAAP). Each year, some Chicago-area students are invited to attend CAAP the summer before they enter the College to get a preview of the new expectations they will face as University of Chicago freshmen. They attend four classes that serve as an introduction to the inquiry-based, discussionintensive style of learning in the College. It is, in CAAP interim director Dee Ferron’s words, “a dress rehearsal.”

Last summer I had a chance to drop in on classes and talk with some of the teachers and students involved. In 2007, 25 incoming freshmen took CAAP courses in math, chemistry, writing, and humanities. Thanks to Homer’s gift, futuresessions will accommodate about 50 students, all of them Odyssey Scholars. The program will also become residential, opening its ranks to students from outside Chicagoland. With students living on campus, CAAP will be able to incorporate more extracurricular activities and events as well.

This news was welcome to Ferron, an adviser in the College. “With students living on campus,” she says, “it will be even more similar to what most of them can expect when school starts in the fall.” Those benefits of the program that go beyond academic preparation will be especially magnified: the opportunities for students to bond with classmates with whom they share a common experience.

At an institution where dialogue and exchange are so central to learning, it’s fitting that, in talking to past and present students, these bonds emerge as one of CAAP’s most valuable features. “I learned that you can’t assume anything about people from looking at them,” 2006 CAAP Fellow Zainab Raji told me. “Once you get to talking to them, learning more things about them, you learn that those assumptions don’t hold.” Now in her sophomore year at Chicago, Raji rooms with a friend she met in CAAP.

To get a grasp of how CAAP acclimates students to the University of Chicago’s academic atmosphere, I talked to David Hahn, a PhD student in the English department who co-teaches the writing course. “We’re trying to put them in situations that will be recognizable to them once they start regular classes,” he told me. “This can be a very imposing, intimidating place in general, and especially for first-year kids.” In his class, the first order of business is to get students used to the idea that the effectiveness of their writing is relative to its context; and not only will college demand different qualities of their writing than high school, it may need to serve different functions in, say, a comparative literature paper than in a political science essay. The students, Hahn reports, are quick to adapt: they are “the best students to teach because they’re buying what you’re selling, they’re hungry, they want to do well.”

By preparing them to do wonderfully, CAAP helps further the overarching goal of Homer’s gift: to make an education in the College more equally accessible to every student who is up to its intellectual rigors. —L.D.