Program supports first-generation students in their efforts to graduate:
Last fall, 35% of the incoming freshmen at UMHB were first-generation college students. Statistics show that if first-generation students attain bachelor’s degrees, they earn comparable salaries and are employed in similar occupations as their non-first-generation peers, yet three out of five first-generation college students do not complete a degree or credential in six years. For this reason, UMHB is taking steps to meet the needs of more first-generation students.
One of these steps involves President O’Rear meeting each of these “first-gen” students personally, so he formed a panel of administrators and leaders from across cam-pus and hosted a dinner at the presidential home for all incoming first-gen students. At the event, administrators encouraged the students, provided lists of resources, allowed them to meet and mingle with faculty and staff, and distributed first-gen shirts to foster a sense of unity.
Another step addresses student success directly. The Center for Academic Excellence at UMHB enrolls every first-gen student in a program called Grades First, which sends out alerts regarding grades, reminders about dead-lines, and information concerning advising and financial aid. UMHB hopes these steps will help encourage, assist, and graduate more first-gen students—students who, like the following five freshmen, want to be the first in their families to go to college and the first to finish.
Sadie Stephens: Freshman accounting major from Marshall, Texas
“At first, choosing UMHB was a difficult decision because I thought I wanted to go into the military. But then I toured the campus and knew this is where I wanted to be. I loved that it was a small Christian university.
“My transition from high school hasn’t been that difficult. Everyone here cares. They care if you’re going to class, and they care if you’re passing those classes. I’m also a UMHB cheerleader, which has helped me come out of my comfort zone and meet new people.
“My parents are very proud of me because I made it to college. It feels good knowing I’m doing something. I have several younger sisters, and they are my whole world. One of my sisters, who is only 15 months younger, is already thinking about coming here. That would be awesome because we could room together!”
“I want to finish this degree because I hope to help out in my dad’s construction business. I would like to manage the company’s finances.”
Jonathon Magill: Freshman Christian Studies major from Mequite and Brownsboro, Texas
“My senior year of high school, I came to UMHB with my class, and once I saw the campus, I fell in love. I knew this was where God wanted me to be. My parents thought it was a good fit as well.
“Personal experiences with upperclassmen in the Crusader Marching Band have helped me grow as a first-generation student. Our band is really good, and it has motivated me as a musician and a person. I have learned that I really have to practice and be on top of my music, so I don’t let down the entire group.
“I’ve known since the 5th grade that I wanted to go to college. I’ve felt the calling to be a youth pastor and speak at youth conferences and camps, and this degree is going to help me do it.”
Danielle Rodcay: Freshman mass communication major from Washington, Illinois
“I chose UMHB because I lived in Texas in high school. My dad was in the Army, and we moved when he got stationed in Illinois. But I always wanted to move back to this area because Texas is where we lived the longest, so it has always felt like home. When I was in high school, I visited the campus for a color guard camp and really liked the school.
“UMHB has been helpful in my transition from high school. I met the president, and he was really nice. That was a pretty neat experience.
“My parents still live in Illinois, so they aren’t thrilled I’m so far away, but at the same time, they like that I’ve chosen a good Christian environment. They feel I will prosper from it.
“I’m still figuring out a career plan, but I want to finish this degree because I think public relations and broadcasting might be a good fit for my skills and personality.”
Halee Jorgensen: Freshman mass communication major from Cedar Park, Texas
“I knew that I needed a small private school because I wanted to be a part of the community, so I visited UMHB for preview weekend. Hanging out with current students and seeing the campus really influenced my decision to attend. UMHB was the most beautiful campus I visited, but the interactions with the current students really convinced me to enroll.
“Transitioning to college was somewhat difficult for my parents because they didn’t necessarily know what to do about certain admissions and financial aid forms and such. They got help, though, and they are really pleased with my decision.
“As a first-generation student, UMHB has been helpful. I met with Dr. O’Rear, and he said he was happy I chose UMHB as a first-gen student and hopes I will call on them if I need help. This has been a really good first semester, and I think I’m on track to graduate early. With this degree, I hope to work for a magazine as a spread designer and photographer.”
Bethany Zamora: Freshman mass communication major from Katy, Texas
“UMHB was the first college I visited as a high-school student, but it was cold and rainy during my visit, so I wasn’t sure I would attend.
I visited other schools, but it came down to wanting a small school
and a Christian environment. Those qualities made me feel a special connection to UMHB, and I soon fell in love with it.
“I really enjoyed the first-generation dinner at the president’s home. I was sitting next to a woman in administration, and the next day she emailed to let me know that she is happy to help if I ever need anything. That was very sweet. My Honors Program advisor has been very helpful as well.
“What has helped the most in my transition to college has been how nice the UMHB people are. Everyone is just so kind. Their support not only helps me adjust as a first-generation student, but it also gives me confidence that I will finish.”