Two weeks before the fall semester started, 33 first year students arrived at Goucher for the “Summer Launch Program.” The Summer LAUNCH Program is a refined form of previous programs such as the Phoenix Program., Goucher worked with the Maryland Scholars Association and others to create the LAUNCH program to better equip first-generation and underprivileged college students for the Goucher experience. “We recognize that not everyone comes to college on an equal footing.” says the LAUNCH page under the Goucher Website. “The LAUNCH Network supports students who may face unique challenges and ensure that they can access the resources necessary to flourish at Goucher.” But while the Goucher faculty aimed for the LAUNCH program to help give students who needed a leg-up, it floundered due to poor communication, lack of preparation, and questionable decision making on demographics.
“We weren’t told anything about the program prior,” says first-year student Heather McCormack ’25. “I was required to go for my scholarship, and I wasn’t expecting to be in classes everyday.” As a beneficiary of the Maryland Scholar Program, Heather attended LAUNCH as part of her scholarship; .But as she said, the program’s schedule was ill-communicated.
The emails regarding the program describe it as an opportunity to “[m]ove in two weeks early…develop skills through curricular and co-curricular courses…[and] enjoy exclusive social excursions.” However, certain aspects were far more central to the program than others.Over the course of two weeks there were only four total outings, only one of which was actually in Baltimore proper. The days were otherwise spent in classes; from 9 AM to 3 PM, students were shuffled between ACE time management workshops, remedial math classes, and high-school level English courses. This was felt as a slap in the face to many students; the insinuation that students on financial aid needed academic remediation was seen by many as insulting and even classist.
This was made further problematic when a few students realized that they didn’t fit into the categories that the LAUNCH Program was meant to address. Some students, such as freshman Cas Sturdivant ’25, who is Black, felt like there was another reason for his inclusion.
“My family has never struggled with money, and both of my parents are college educated. I didn’t even qualify for financial aid. I’m a fourth generation college student. I can’t think of a reason other than my race that could explain why I was contacted for the LAUNCH program.”
Cas’ beliefs were echoed by other students in the LAUNCH program – whatever Goucher’s original purpose for including otherwise well-off students of color, it did not have the effect they intended. The Summer LAUNCH Program was without a doubt a well-intentioned project, but it left many students feeling further uncertain of their place at Goucher College. While it was certainly meant to help, it seems the program never managed to get off the LAUNCHpad.