It's time to celebrate!
Westfield State University’s Urban Education Program (UEP) is coming up on its fiftieth anniversary, and we want to get this party started by holding our 50th Golden Anniversary celebration at 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 17 in the Scanlon Banquet Hall. It might seem like it's a bit early to make the announcement, but this gives us a good opportunity to talk about why the UEP is so vital for our students and the impact on the community.
For the past fifty years, the UEP has provided holistic support services to students who self-identify as first-generation, under-represented, or who demonstrate a financial need. We partnered with students to establish a social support network both inside and outside the classroom. Through an involved, hands-on approach, the program’s focus has been to help students find their career paths and provide the means to pursue those paths with comfort and confidence.
A History of Excellence
The Urban Education Program was founded in 1968 to create opportunities for financially-challenged students of color to gain collegiate access, mentoring, and academic advising. While there still exists a misconception that the program is exclusively for students of color, it has expanded over the last half century to embrace an academic community enriched by diversity, including race, ethnicity, national origin, gender and gender identity, sexuality, disability, socio-economic class, and religion.
It’s this arms-open approach of support that has steered the Urban Education Program to foster academic excellence and leadership by empowering students to dream big and to chase those dreams. Former UEP director and Westfield State alumna Joan Fuller (1976) can't agree enough.
“I have been so blessed to be a part of [the program’s] evolution,” she says. “When students are supported, their academic achievement is limitless.”
A Hands-On Approach
The UEP’s Summer Bridge Program begins in the summer before students' first-year of college. Students are mentored by staff, alumni, and student leaders. Course work emphasizes research, writing, time management, critical thinking, computer applications, and basic programming. The students also receive academic counseling, career counseling, and financial aid assistance. But support doesn’t stop there. Urban Education staff continue to provide guidance throughout a student’s Westfield State experience in areas like civic responsibility, networking, and career development.
On average, 95% of UEP Summer Bridge Program participants matriculate into Westfield State University, and 60% of the Summer Bridge Class of 2018 will be part of the six-year graduation rate. Success like this wouldn’t be celebrated by staff, students, and program alumni if it weren’t for the Urban Education Program’s hands-on approach to advising, mentorship, and academic and social support. One of the program’s greatest strengths, as highlighted by Fuller, is its ability to provide opportunities to learn and grow in a university atmosphere that’s sensitive to the wide range of obstacles that ethnically and educationally-diverse students confront.
Another Half-Century Worth Celebrating
A half-century of academic support from the Urban Education Program to the Westfield State community wouldn’t be worth celebrating if it weren’t for the students and alumni who have taken advantage of what the program has offered over the years. And the same will be true for the next fifty years of UEP success. That’s why the Joan E. Fuller Scholarship was established to help students find direction and guidance within the program and to continue on through a fruitful academic career at Westfield State.
It’s still a bit early to save the date for the Urban Education Program’s 100th Anniversary in 2068, but you can be a part of this year’s half-century celebration by joining staff, students, and alumni in the Scanlon Banquet Hall on November 17, 2018. For more information, visit westfieldalumni.org/UE50.