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College of Education > News and Publications > 2016: 10-12 news > College dream becomes reality through Penn State program

College dream becomes reality through Penn State program

Maria Schmidt builds Summer College Opportunity Program in Education from the ground up.

Maria Schmidt developed her vision for S.C.O.P.E. before she ever worked in the College of Education.

Maria Schmidt, assistant dean and Director of Multicultural Student Services in the College of Education, enjoys helping high school students become familiar with college life through the S.C.O.P.E. program
“I had been the director of HAP, Hispanics in Academic Progress, in the University’s Multicultural Resource Center, but this University-wide program was not focused on any particular major,” Schmidt said. 

As an alumna of the College of Education, Schmidt recognized that there was a need to diversify the teaching and counseling professions. “I always had this idea about designing a program that was more focused toward education,” Schmidt said.

When she had the opportunity to interview for her current position of assistant dean for multicultural programs in the College, she decided to turn her vision into reality. “I proposed I would create S.C.O.P.E. during my interview process for the job, and the dean liked the idea,” she said.

Schmidt started working in the College in the summer of 2000, and started laying the foundation for S.C.O.P.E. (To read more about S.C.O.P.E., click here.)

“I told the dean I could not start the program right away. I needed some time to design it, to settle myself in the College, to put the pieces together. This type of program is very difficult to sustain. So I needed to put the pieces together in a way that had more probability of sustaining the program long-term than the natural life that this type of program tends to have,” she said.

Schmidt partnered with the Registrar’s Office, Admissions Office, Housing and Food Services, Conference Services and others to develop the program. Once those pieces were in place, she contacted every high school in Pennsylvania to market S.C.O.P.E., which admitted its first cohort in 2002.

For Schmidt, S.C.O.P.E. is more than just a program; it’s a passion. “It allows me to influence somebody’s life. When I see the students that come from a background where nobody was believing in them and that actually had people tell them ‘you’re not college material,’ come here, work hard and graduate, and go on to do wonderful things, that inspires me. I know it’s cliché, but that’s why I’m still here. That’s the truth. It inspires me when I see people not give up. I’ve been lucky to witness that in a lot of students,” she said.

Schmidt always has been very passionate about issues of equity and social justice. “I’ve always believed that we are all privileged in one way or another. I came from a working-class family with a single mom, but I was raised with the idea that education was extremely important and I’m very thankful for that,” she said. 

“While in many ways there were hard times along the way, I find myself to be a very privileged person and right now I enjoy the privilege of working for a truly No. 1 research institution, having a comfortable life. But with privilege comes responsibility. Some way, somehow, you have to provide back to your community and you have to try to effect change. S.C.O.P.E. and my job with the College gives me the opportunity of earning a living while doing what I’m passionate about. That’s the best you can have in your life, right?”

Annemarie Mountz (November 2016)