August 22, 2016

A $25,000 grant from the Sisters of Mercy West Midwest Mercy Ministry Grants will help fund programming for Detroit Mercy students who are the first in their family to attend college.

In 2015, Associate Professor of English Mary-Catherine Harrison created 1stGen@UDM to address the particular needs of these students. First-generation students are those whose parents do not have a bachelor's degree. Currently just under 30 percent of Detroit Mercy students fall into this category.

Research shows that these students have significantly lower graduation rates than continuing-generation students, especially if they are also low-income students. Those studies indicate first-generation students leave college not only for academic and financial reasons, but also because they do not have family role models for success in higher education.

1stGen@UDM, whose name is now 1stGen Network, hosts bi-monthly campus events and off-campus outings all designed to create a community and support network for these students. University administration, faculty, students and alumni share their stories as first-generation college graduates and serve as mentors. The organization works in tandem with other on-campus programming.

The grant from the Sisters of Mercy will help the 1stGen Network expand its programming to include a speaker series and add to its library of videos of students, faculty and administration sharing their first-generation stories. Those videos can be found here.

The grand will also allow the program to hire a first-generation graduate student to serve as program coordinator and student mentor.

“We are thrilled that the Sisters of Mercy have put their support behind our students in the 1stGen Network,” Harrison said. “The Mercy mission is very much in line with our goal to support and empower these students. The Sisters of Mercy recognize that first-generation college graduates are absolutely critical to our University and our society. We are excited for what we will be able to do this year and for what our first-generation students will be able to accomplish in their lives and careers.”