Cameron University and GEAR UP’s Road Trip to the Future
We sat down with Jane Reynolds and Allie Bishop to ask them about a recent campus visit to Cameron University.
The visit was part of the Road Trip to the Future series, funded by three GEAR UP grants.
After a family group tour, students who visit the college campuses through Road Trip to the Future get to have a focused campus experience as a group while their parents learn more about postsecondary education and financial aid.
How would you describe Road Trip to the Future?
Road Trip to the Future is an event where we bring both parents and students onto a college campus to share a campus visit experience. That’s it in a nutshell.
What was unique about this particular Road Trip to the Future at Cameron University?
The trip to Cameron University was unique in that we piloted using augmented reality via the K20 START app while on the campus. Students and parents got to use the virtual reality equipment to enhance their campus tour. It went very well! As part of their campus experience, the students got to do a deep dive into a couple of popular programs at Cameron. They visited the media program and did their own broadcast. They had a great time.
While the students were out visiting their programs, parents got in-depth info on what students need to know, how to get enrolled, what the housing program is like, and more. They hear from the college campus about a variety of things. Then we do a GEAR UP presentation with them where we talk to them about Oklahoma’s Promise, financial aid, planning for the future, and supporting their students.
Allie, what would you add?
Road Trip to the Future is a shared experience where students and parents come together for a college campus visit. But it’s also a time where we intentionally have time for students to go out and explore without mom, dad, or whatever family member they bring along.
Then we help families picture their students in college.
You have activities for parents to engage with while the students are exploring campus. What do you want parents to learn from these activities?
That attending college can be a reality. For some families that attend these events, they’re not sure college is something that can happen for their student. Getting to see their student on campus shows them this is doable, and there are pathways to make that happen.
That’s our bottom line when it comes to bringing parents on campus. Our goal is for the parents to walk away saying, “You know what? I can help my child make this happen. This can be a reality for our family.
What do you want students and parents to learn during the portion of the visit when they’re learning about campus together?
During a typical campus visit, students leave campus visits excited. They go home and tell their parents about it. But their parents can’t really share that same level of excitement. But when they have this really great campus experience, and because they’ve had a shared experience, they’re both coming away with a new level of excitement that gives it greater value to both the student and to the whole family.
You mentioned augmented reality with K20 START earlier. This was the first time students used the app live during the visit. What went into the decision to have students pilot K20 START at Cameron?
The Game-Based Learning team thought this would be a great opportunity to try out AR in a real setting. They’ve been working with Cameron for as much as a year to get this app content put together.
They’re also working on other campus tours. They had this one for Cameron ready to go. This was the perfect opportunity to pilot it because, on the campus tour, there’s a limited amount of time. You don’t always get to see everything. This was a way to extend those opportunities for students and their families. Once they’ve been there, they can download the app that GBL made, and they can return to Cameron that way.
Once they’ve been there, they can go back to it as often as they like without having to be on campus.
The QUEST app is another part of the parent experience. Like START, parents can access QUEST any time and find information that’s relevant to their student is at the moment.
What do you have in store for future events?
Allie, I’ll let you take that one because you have a road trip coming up, right?
We’re working to develop another trip for our other schools. We will have Road Trip to the Future at different campuses at different times. Our hope is to have several of these events at different campuses to allow students the opportunity to explore more than one college campus or more than one type of school. We’re working to develop a road trip to Rose State, a community college here in the metro. That would be versus a regional university like Cameron, to explore options for students. There are a variety of options for students after they graduate high school. We want to show students and families what those different options look like.
Another thing that makes Road Trip to the Future unique from a lot of the things that we do is that we take care of all the logistics for the event. The only thing that schools are asked to do is help us get the message out. We take care of everything else. Schools help market it for us, but the students don’t go through the school to enroll or register.
I like giving our counselors a break. They do a lot of work for their students with us, so it makes me happy to do this awesome event and tell my counselors all they need to do is get the word out. They don’t need to worry about anything else!
So you are willing to take on some extra legwork to help out your school contacts – does that help you spend more time with parents, too?
When we do regular college campus visits with our students, they are organized through the school. Counselors must arrange transportation, get permission slips, recruit chaperones, and do a lot of prep work. We take all of that off the shoulders of the counselor with Road Trip to the Future.
I love that our parents get to come to this campus visit. They get to have this on-campus experience that generates some excitement for the family and. And yeah, I get to talk with them, answer their questions, and see them get excited about their child’s future.
What would you say to a parent who is on the fence about bringing their child to an event like this?
This is 100% free for you and your student. It’s totally paid for and provided by GEAR UP. Our intent isn’t to recruit you and get you to sign up to go to college at this campus. There really are no stakes involved. It’s just an opportunity for you to see your student on a college campus to learn and explore more. I don’t think that’s ever a bad thing.
Our goal is to let students explore what their interests are in future careers or academic pursuits, gaining that knowledge alongside a family member. If your student does want to pursue postsecondary options, you’re learning all about that for yourself, even if they don’t attend the specific campus you’re visiting. It’s one option available to you, but the visit is more to get their students thinking about what the future might look like for them.
Every campus is unique. But they’re also the same in many ways. Even if you visit a campus your student isn’t planning to attend, you’re going to learn things that will be helpful to you no matter what campus your student chooses.
There’s a lot of general information like that. Financial aid is financial aid wherever you go to school.
Are there any standout moments you’re proud of from a past Road Trip to the Future visit?
A counselor told me about a student who went on this campus event. The student was totally unengaged in class. When she and her parent came back, the difference in how she approached school was so dramatic that the teachers were talking about it. They didn’t know what had caused the change. But the counselor knew. I don’t think it would have been the same if the student had gone on the campus visit on her own. Because she had her parent with her, they had that shared excitement. They were able to create a dream together. She came away with a new dream and a purpose.
Jane shared the following attestation with me from Heavener High School’s counselor, Margo Wright. It cites an 11th grade student, Audrey, after her experience with Road Trip to the Future: