The Kessler Scholars: Access, Support, and Community

The Kessler Scholars: Access, Support, and Community

The Kessler Scholars program is a scholarship program
at the University of Michigan that supports high achieving students who are the first in their family to attend college. We know from research that these students face questions and complications
and challenges sometimes that their continuing generation peers don’t because they have that model —
a parent, a grandparent — who’s already figured out how to navigate
a place like Michigan. I felt that I was a few steps behind everyone. They knew what the roadmap looked like and they knew what it was that they were
supposed to go through and I just had no idea. You’re kind of being put in a playing field
that’s not even and what Kessler does is it kind of gives you
the tools to play the game. The Kessler Scholars Program is really rethinking what scholarship support means in higher education. Money to access the institution isn’t enough. The Kessler Scholars Program provides resources, supports, dedicated staff, programming to assure that students not only get in the door, but that they thrive when they are here. Instead of just being like thrown into this college
with a million different people, there’s like 35 people in my cohort so there was 35 other people who are going through
the same things as you and you knew that like to some extent we all came
from the same background. We know representation matters. Sometimes if you can’t see yourself in a specific field then you kind of feel like you don’t belong there, or you feel like this imposter syndrome. And so I think that touchpoint of
getting to know students for who they are, or getting to know other people in your cohort,
getting to know alumni — that sense of story, that sense of community — really provides a sense of belonging for students here. I was assigned a peer mentor
who is a senior in biochemistry. He’s someone that I can always ask about
class advice or even research and he has specifically helped me to understand
that there is help out there and that I can succeed if I set my mind to it. A real delight of the program
and our work with students is that we come to know them across time. And so at the point that they run into
challenge or hurdle, we are the sort of trusted space
that they can turn to over time. If it was any other program and I just came in, accepted a check, and went on my way I would have had no idea what to do and
I wouldn’t have had a place, a safe place to go to and feel like I could be myself,
and I could be vulnerable, and I could let someone know that I need help. One of the goals of this project is to build
students’ social capital. To create opportunities to connect with people
or places or resources that they otherwise just might not know exist. It’s a lot of fun and it creates the kind of sense of belonging and just really deep involvement with the university that we know changes outcomes for these students. We know that underrepresented students on campus and even in some programs — their voices are often muted
just because there’s no one who’s giving them specific attention
or amplifying their voice and so it’s very important that we allow students
to help shape the program. We now have older students saying could we create study tables or peer tutoring opportunities just in the space of Kessler because
I as an older student can say, “I know what you are going through. I know your experience at Michigan looks different
than some of the other peers around you in class.” The students have a clear ethos around
community service and of giving back and they are enacting that through the Kessler Scholars Program
to help one another. That makes us very proud. When we read what they’re doing and when we meet the young people
that are a part of this program it makes it all worthwhile. You know, they’re first-generation college students and it just opens up a whole new world for them and it will only help the world that they’re going into. Any scholarship opportunity can be transformational. It allows students access to an institution
that they otherwise might not be at. The distinction of the Kessler model and of what
the Wilpon family has sought to convey is that we will also enhance the
student experience while they are here. We will connect them with each other,
with the broader community, with staff who know who they are
across their four years here so that the outcomes we achieve
will far surpass what those students otherwise
might have encountered.

local_offerevent_note October 3, 2019

account_box Matthew Anderson


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