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UC Funds First-Generation Faculty Mentorship Program

The Undergraduate Council meets in the Smith Campus Center in 2018.
The Undergraduate Council meets in the Smith Campus Center in 2018. By Caleb D. Schwartz
By Kevin R. Chen, Crimson Staff Writer

The Undergraduate Council allocated $4,000 to fund the inaugural year of its First-Generation Faculty Mentorship Program on Sunday at its first meeting following fall elections.

UC President Sruthi Palaniappan ’20 and Vice President Julia M. Huesa ’20 planned the details of the First-Generation Faculty Mentorship Program over the summer, and the UC formally voted to launch the program earlier this month. The mentorship program pairs freshmen students identifying as first-generation with faculty members to advise them. Forty faculty members and 65 students will participate in the program during its pilot year.

Palaniappan said she and Huesa decided to establish the program after many first-generation students on campus said they had difficulty in navigating the culture of higher education.

The legislation notes that challenges such as “knowing how to talk to professors” and “being able to ask for extensions/academic support” are among the difficulties first-generation students may face.

While the formal mentorship pairing lasts for one academic year, Palaniappan said she hopes the relationships can continue informally throughout the students’ time at the College and beyond.

The newly allocated funding will be used solely to “help facilitate interaction through more intimate conversations — over coffee or lunch — between student mentees and faculty mentors in order to build more meaningful relationships,” according to the legislation.

Each student-faculty pair will be granted $30 per semester to spend on their meetings.

“We want to make sure that students have the opportunity not to think of these as a financial burden for them to participate with their faculty mentor,” Palaniappan said during the meeting.

Palaniappan and Huesa said they hope that after a successful inaugural year of the program, other Harvard offices will be able to fund the program and ensure its continued support.

Sunday marked the UC's first meeting for dozens of newly-elected members. More than half of this year’s council are first-time representatives.

— Staff writer Kevin R. Chen can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kchenx.

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