History of the Martin Luther King Program

The Martin Luther King program originated at Shippensburg University in 1983 under the Dean of Special Academic Programs. The program, an academic support system, was designed to enhance the retention and graduation rates of regularly admitted African- American Students. At that time the program consisted of counseling, academic advising, and academic monitoring.

In 1989 a mentoring program was implemented. The mentoring program was designed to provide continuing orientation to the university and community life, to help students develop a sense of belonging and to inspire students through moral support.

Prior to 1991, participation in the MLK program, was opened only to African America freshmen. This excluded other minority students who would also benefit from the program. In Fall of 1991, the program opened participation to all minority students.

In August 1991 a Supplemental Orientation Program was implemented. It was designed to combat alienation and loneliness that many minority students experience on a predominantly white campus and to enhance students' academic success. Students were required to come on campus four days before the Fall Freshman Orientation and participate in a series of workshops and presentations conducted by campus faculty and administrators, alumni, and others. In 1994, the orientation program was increased from four to six days. This program has been highly effective in helping students to "bond" with each other and to develop a sense of belonging to the university.

In 1995, a Peer Mentoring Program was implemented to support the professional program and subsequently incoming students. Peer mentors are upperclassmen in good academic standing, have good interpersonal skills, and are models of exemplary behavior. They are effective with their mentees because they have weathered the campus environment and are in a unique position to serve as advice-givers. The professional mentor has power, status, and some expertise and knowledge that can be passed on to the new student.

In Fall 1996, the Academic Monitoring System for incoming MLK students was implemented. Academic Coordinator confers frequently with the students' professors throughout the semester, meets with students every other week, and makes referrals to campus support services as necessary. They also follows up on referrals, with the Learning Assistance Center staff, the program staff and with parents when appropriate.

In 2004, the Martin Luther King Program was revamped to become an academic support network for all students committed to diversity. This expansion allowed students of color, students who may be first in their family to attend college, and  those who may have economic need to become members of the program. The MLK Program now incorporates many initiatives to ensure the academic and social success of its students. Students participate in an Extended Orientation, benefit from Learning and Living Communities, receive F.R.I.E.N.D mentors, a First Year experience course, academic monitoring, academic incentives and are eligible to receive Thurgood Marshall Mentors.