Calvin Gantt has been named the new director of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP). Gantt, a Binghamton University alumnus from 1992, was previously the director of the Access Opportunity Programs (AOP) at SUNY Geneseo, a similar program to BU’s EOP program.
EOP is a special admissions program for approximately 600 students who are economically disadvantaged or first-generation college students. After completing a summer program of math, writing, chemistry, geography and human development instruction, students continue to receive support from counselors and services, like tutoring and help with finding scholarships throughout their time at school.
Over 40 candidates applied for the position, and the search lasted through the fall semester. Brian Rose, the vice president for student affairs, said that Gantt’s experience in EOP both as a student and as director at SUNY Geneseo gave him an edge over other applicants. Gantt also received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Professional Service in 2012.
“All of us were delighted that Dr. Gantt is a Binghamton EOP alumnus with a sense of the history and identity of our EOP program,” Rose wrote in an email. “We were impressed with his prior experience as an EOP Director at an institution with a similarly competitive student body, Geneseo, and with his deep understanding of the mission of EOP.”
As BU’s EOP director, Gantt’s duties include supporting the counselor staff that works directly with students and maintaining relationships between EOP and other departments on campus, like student affairs and academic affairs, to help with students’ transitions to BU. Gantt is replacing Randall Edouard, who became assistant vice provost and director of admissions in fall 2013. Vanessa Young, a senior academic counselor in EOP, acted as the interim director.
One of the first things that may be on Gantt’s agenda as the new director is seeking more funding for students in the program, said Yulanda Whyte-Johnson, a senior academic counselor in EOP and a member of the search committee. Funding currently comes from the SUNY Office of Opportunity Programs.
“Our students graduate with at least $28,000 worth of loans that they have to give back,” Whyte-Johnson said. “Trying to help lower that $28,000 cost is always a challenge with finding funding for our students.”
Although Gantt said he is unsure of what changes he had in mind, he said that he wanted to put greater emphasis on the success of EOP on campus by highlighting the achievements of its students.
“We have so many students that come from so many backgrounds and walks of life and I think that sometimes there’s a perception about what EOP is and who’s eligible for it,” Gantt said. “By telling the stories of students you can dispel some of those myths that are out there.”
Myths include assumptions that EOP students may be less qualified to attend the University and that EOP students receive a free ride. EOP students, however, face the same admissions criteria as other students, and pay the same tuition and fees during the year. The summer program is free for EOP students, and the EOP office can help provide financial aid.
Gantt added that whatever the future changes are, he wanted to keep the feeling of family among the students and staff in EOP strong.
“The students know that there is a real, fundamental support system in place for them here,” Gantt said. “That connection and availability of people who you know will be there to support you; I think that has been one of the cornerstones of this program.”
For Gantt, the support he received from his own mentor Michael Boyd, the EOP director from 1986 to 1994, pushed him to apply for the position.
“To have had that opportunity to be tutored and experience working with him is really one of the things that spearheaded me wanting to do this type of work as a career,” Gantt said. “The opportunity for me to come back to campus and serve in this role knowing that this is where [Boyd] started is really an honor for me.”