SPARK program prepares incoming students for adjustment to campus life

By Jack Goods, communication specialist in the Office of University Relations

Imagine you’re set to start your freshman year of college, and like for many students, this transition marks the first time you’ve ever lived away from your family. The to-do list feels never-ending. The questions mount quickly: How do I get assigned a residence hall? What do I need to bring? How will I make new friends? And, critically, what classes should I be taking?

SPARK, the Summer Priority Advising and Registration Kick-off program at Marquette University, hopes to ease that stress for our incoming students. The program offers students and their families the opportunity to prepare for their upcoming adjustment to campus life, helping them understand what it means to be a member of the Marquette community.

At the heart of SPARK is the opportunity to register for classes in a guided manner with help from university advisers.

“The Admissions team has done so much of the phenomenal leg work to get these students to want to come to Marquette and commit to coming to Marquette,” says Kate Cibich, coordinator for New Student and Family Programs. “Our hope is that with SPARK we continue that momentum and get folks excited to come back in August. Some committed to Marquette months ago. I think it allows those incoming students, and families and guests as well, to remind themselves, ‘Oh yeah, this is why I chose Marquette. This is why I’m excited to come back in August. Oh, and I get a course schedule, too.’”

SPARK this summer was separated into six sessions — five in person and one virtual — throughout June. It marked the first time in three years that students came to campus for the event, with SPARK limited to a virtual setting for the previous two classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each two-day session featured a variety of programs, including a kickoff event at the Varsity Theatre, a fair highlighting campus services, introductions to the individual colleges and course registration.

Incoming students are led by upper division SPARK Leaders who serve as resources at the start of their transition to college.

“We have received a lot of positive feedback regarding our program from new students and their families,” says Julia Dedic, student director of event logistics for New Student and Family Programs. “Many incoming students express that they feel reassured in their choice of choosing Marquette and less anxious for the school year to start.”

The kickoff event provided an opportunity for university leadership to introduce themselves to students and their families. President Michael Lovell discussed some of his favorite aspects of Marquette and Milwaukee while welcoming those in attendance. Provost Kimo Ah Yun requested the crowd hold him to a promise — if they ever see him in line for a coffee, ask him and he’ll buy theirs too.

“I’d like to thank all the students for choosing Marquette and the families for entrusting your son or daughter to our university,” Lovell told the crowd. “We are so excited to welcome you this fall to the Class of 2026.”

Students wrap up SPARK primed to return to campus in late August for orientation with a schedule in hand, a lay of the land and potentially budding friendships.

“It was crazy to see the way that some friendships and bonds happened within a matter of 36 hours,” Cibich says. “These students are not on campus for a long time at all, but when I had the opportunity to walk around the Alumni Memorial Union at the end of Day 2, seeing some of these students trade phone numbers or hug each other or look so excited to have created that friendship — that was really cool. That also helps those students feel more confident coming to campus in the fall, knowing that they have made that connection.”