Sisters of Mercy fund first-generation student support again

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A generous grant from the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Ministry will help fund services to students who are the first generation in their family to attend university.

The $28,200 grant is the second from the Sisters of Mercy in two years and is earmarked for the University’s FirstGen Network programming designed to improve success and retention of first-generation students, a group defined as students whose parents do not have a college degree. Nationwide, these students struggle more and drop out at a higher rate than students whose parents have college degrees.

Since 2015, Detroit Mercy’s FirstGen Network has offered academic and social support to the nearly one-third of the student population that fits this category, said Susan Trudeau ’88, ’94, director of the Student Success Center, which now organizes FirstGen Network programming.

Students meet twice a month on campus for lunches where they hear speakers talk about their educational journeys or offer strategies that will improve success. Speakers and events are planned with the Mercy charisms in the front of mind; even the food at lunches are from local businesses that adhere to fair trade policies and work with organic ingredients, she added.

“Our students are learning how to be  more effective community members and develop the skills for community organizing in their neighborhood,” she said.

FirstGen Network members will also have the opportunity to join a national mentoring program that will train them to work with high school students to help them navigate the confusing terrain of applying to universities, Trudeau said.

“It’s difficult to quantify the results of a program like this,” Trudeau said. “Just anecdotally, the student feedback we receive and the participation numbers and the students who bring in friends shows that students are responding.”

Figures from the University’s Office of Institutional Research seem to indicate that as well, with retention of first-generation students near, and in some cases above, the retention of all new freshmen.

Trudeau calls the Student Success Center taking on FirstGen programming a “natural and appropriate marriage” because there is a lot of overlap between what the Center already does and the needs of FirstGen students.

The Center also recently was re-awarded with a King Chavez Parks Initiative grant of $115,000 to carry on its work of helping students succeed. The center supports student learning communities aided by Detroit Mercy faculty, teaches students how to learn more effectively, holds workshops on how to do research and brings in curriculum-related speakers.

The Center has received this state grant for 12 years.

For more information on the Student Success Center, read this article from earlier this year.

The Campaign for University of Detroit Mercy is raising funds to ensure students benefit from Detroit Mercy’s commitment to updated and expanded programming. Please consider making a gift toward the $100-million goal online or by calling 313-993-1250. Gifts of any size can make a major difference.

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