RIC Builds Bridges for Nontraditional Students
If not for RIC’s Bridges Program, honors student Travis Dumais might not have made it to college. Today this sophomore, who has the curiosity and creativity of a young Einstein, is a psychology major, minoring in neuroscience.
“Travis is an amazingly brilliant kid,” said Brian Stevens ’01, M’05, RIC’s assistant director of admissions. “If you were to design a prototype of a college student, it would be him. Moreover, he is committed, hardworking and active in campus life. This is what you want in a college student.”
Yet in high school, based on his grade point average and class ranking, Dumais was not so exceptional. He admits that he spent most of his high school years aspiring to become a rock star and would forego homework to hold jam sessions in the basement. “I was trying to be Jimmy Page, basically,” he said.
By his senior year, his grades were improving and he was coming into his own as a student, yet even with these advancements, he still did not meet RIC’s traditional admission requirements. Dumais decided to meet with Stevens to discuss his educational options.
“I remember Travis had an energy about him and an excitement about learning that a lot of high school students do not have,” Stevens said. “I felt, then, that he needed a chance. I wrote extensive notes about how I thought he would make an exceptional candidate for our Bridges Program.”
Bridges was designed for applicants with academic potential but who do not meet traditional admission requirements. Only 50 students are admitted each year. They are allowed one probationary year of study at the college, and if they meet the GPA requirement by the end of the year, they are admitted as full-time students. In other words, they are asked to prove themselves.
Dumais was accepted and immediately immersed himself in the intellectual life at RIC. By the second semester of his sophomore year, he became a RIC honor’s student for superior academic achievement.
“It was almost like he was bound up in high school, and when he enrolled at RIC he found that he was freer to be curious and delve into courses he had never had. The courses were exciting to him,” said Stevens.
Currently Dumais is working on an independent honors thesis – a critique of religion and morality – and he is engaged in a research project led by Steven Threlkeld, assistant professor of psychology, studying the effects of a protein on infant brain development. In his spare time, Dumais meditates, jogs, and dabbles with photography and brain-training games. He also visits Stevens at least once a week at the Office of Admissions.
“Travis is almost like that proverbial little brother who is more talented than you are,” Stevens said. “I live vicariously through him. I want to see how far he can fly. The reason the Bridges Program is so successful is because of students like him. Any number of these students, if we go by what’s on paper, aren’t supposed to be here. But then they come through and they thrive.”