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First-Generation Students Dive Into Classics in UDallas Constantin Scholars Program

Before her first fall class, aspiring FBI agent Brenda Chicas ’27 had already analyzed Beowulf and delivered an independent presentation as part of the Constantin Scholars Program.

“The most valuable aspect I found in the program was that the teachers gave criticism. They help you build more knowledge on what you’re learning,” Chicas said. 

Chicas, who graduated from MacArthur High School in Irving, was part of a small group of students that got a head start on college life over the summer during the Constantin Scholars Program. 

The program helps first-generation college students from Texas prepare for the rigor and pace of a University of Dallas education.

Under the tutelage of doctoral students Juraj Nevjestic and Benjamin Warner, Constantin Scholars take a crash course in college-level writing called Seven Arts of Language. The course trains students in the three traditional components of the Trivium — grammar, rhetoric and logic — as well as skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking.

This summer’s cohort is the fourth group of Constantin Scholars since the program began. The program is led by Director of Academic Success Matthew Spring, PhD ’15.

“It started four years ago thanks to funding from the Constantin Foundation, who really take seriously UD’s mission to serve the Dallas/Fort Worth area and Texas,” Spring said. 

He pointed out that the program will soon pass an important milestone: the first cohort of Constantin Scholars will graduate this May.

In addition to academic skills, the program benefits students by giving them the lay of the campus.

“They get to know people from the Offices of the Registrar, Financial Aid, Human Resources, Student Life. Faculty from various disciplines have lunch with them. They also have first dibs on work-study opportunities on campus,” Spring said.

Students who complete the program successfully are also offered additional scholarship funds.

Ana Henriquez, BA ’20 MS ’22, serves as assistant director of the program. As an alumna, she helps students get acquainted with the university. Additionally, Henriquez sits in on class discussions and helps students dig into the readings.

“Some things that stick out in my mind are those ah-ha moments that the students have, you know, when the light bulb goes off over their head,” Henriquez said.

“We were analyzing an Old English poem, ‘Wulf and Eadwacer.’ It was a totally different subject from Beowulf, but kind of working within the same system, and to see the students really dig into analysis of that poem was just incredible. They started to get into the debate of who’s talking to whom, and what’s going on here, making hypotheses about what could be happening. It was such a rewarding experience to see them fully engaged in an academic pursuit.”

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