By mixing fun, learning, bonding, and adventure, Bryant’s 4MILE (Multicultural and International Leadership Experience) cultural immersion and leadership development program provided a warm welcome to the University’s international and domestic multicultural students. The six-day program also introduced the new students to invaluable tools for success, helped them forge lifelong bonds with mentors and with one another, and gave them a look ahead at a great four years of college.
Bryant University President Ross Gittell, Ph.D., summed up the program’s spirit at this year’s 4MILE opening session. "We're here for you. We're here to support our students as they start their Bryant education and we're here for the families of students as well,” he told the assembled 4MILE participants and their families. “You are all a part of this strong, supportive Bryant University community."
Prepared for success
“Having a diverse community is one of the things that helps Bryant thrive,” says Emily Collins Garcia, Bryant’s Assistant Director of International Student Integration and this year’s 4MILE Coordinator. “The more diverse our community is, the more we can learn from and appreciate one another.”
“4MILE helps students understand there’s an entire support system available to them and that there are so many people that care about them and their success, both inside and outside the classroom.”
The carefully planned program makes a point of incorporating 4MILE Peer Counselor feedback to ensure that any questions new students might have are addressed and any anxieties are assuaged. “4MILE helps students understand there’s an entire support system available to them and that there are so many people that care about them and their success, both inside and outside the classroom,” Collins Garcia states.
Many of the program’s alumni cite it as a transformative. “There were so many benefits for me going through 4MILE as a first-year student. It allowed me to find others who I really connected with and who came from similar backgrounds as me,” remembers 4MILE Peer Counselor Morgan Jackson ’23, a former 4MILE participant who returned to the program this year to share what she’s learned. “It also set me up with so many great resources and gave me a chance to network on campus with faculty and staff.”
About 4MILE at Bryant
The specially-tailored 4MILE experience, held each year before the fall semester begins, serves as a key gateway for Bryant’s domestic and multicultural students as they acclimate to their new home. A sister program to the University’s New Student Orientation, it provides an important introduction to the resources students can take advantage of as they build their paths to personal and professional fulfillment.
In addition to an academic resource fair and information sessions covering everything from advising options to lessons on time management, this year’s program also included cultural and social workshops, discussions about college life, and spotlights on student life programming.
“One of the most important things about 4MILE is that it opens you up to so many programs and resources and faculty members,” observes Amelia Miller ’25 who participated in 4MILE as a first-year student and returned as a program assistant this year.
There also was a special 4MILE program for parents as well, focusing on subjects ranging from the college transition process to how they can help their students succeed. A reception gave them a chance to meet one another and form their own network. “We know that our students’ families are an important partner in these four years and 4MILE offers them a chance to meet the people who will be supporting their students throughout their time at Bryant,” says Collins Garcia.
“4MILE is a special moment between moving in and starting classes where they can focus on meeting new people, building new relationships and making new friends.”
A helping hand
The student Peer Counselors are at the heart of 4MLE. Many have gone through the program and can offer guidance and advice to the program’s participants. They also become some of the first friends the members of the 4MILE cohort make on campus.
Learning firsthand from more experienced students who have gone through the same things they’re going through can be invaluable to 4MILE participants, the counselors say. “I wanted to be a peer counselor because of my personal experience with 4MILE as a mentee my freshman year,” reflects Jackson. “I thought about how influential and impactful my 4MILE counselors were when I was a mentee and the relationships I still have with them now, and I wanted to be able to provide the same for this incoming class.”
Being a counselor, says Julian Serrano Camacho ’23, was an opportunity to pay the guidance he received forward. “I know how useful 4MILE was for me, and I appreciate it more and more as time goes by,” he notes. He hopes this year’s students remain in touch with him even after the program is concluded. “I want to be able to share my experiences with them—what I’ve learned and all the things I know they can do here.”
“It made it easier for me, knowing I was around people who understood what I was experiencing, trying to adapt to a new culture and make new friends. 4MILE helps remind you that you’re not alone.”
Friends, adventure, and fun
Starting a new experience in a new place can be anxiety inducing for first-year students. 4MILE helps them to build a cohort of support. “The students tell us that one of the most important things they gain from the program is the community,” says Collins Garcia. “4MILE is a special moment between moving in and starting classes where they can focus on meeting new people, building new relationships and making new friends.”
Movie nights, games, team-building exercises, group meals, and other fun activities helped to break down barriers and cement the friendships the 4MILE students formed with one another. Those relationships, Miller says, are invaluable going forward. “It made it easier for me, knowing I was around people who understood what I was experiencing, trying to adapt to a new culture and make new friends,” she remembers. “4MILE helps remind you that you’re not alone.”
Having that supportive network can inspire students to do more than they ever thought possible. Beyond the fun activities and informational sessions, there was also an element of adventure to this year’s 4MILE that played out through events like a scavenger hunt across the city of Providence and a trip to a nearby ropes course. In addition to helping students form friendships and learn more about the community, these excursions also aided them in building their confidence and curiosity. “A program like 4MILE helps students get out of their comfort zone,” Serrano Camacho notes. “They’ve already started that process by having the courage to come to a new place, but this helps them reinforce that courage and prepare for the next step so they can get as much out of their time at Bryant as they possibly can.”