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Of the University of Michigan’s over 30,000 undergrad students, about 230 students are from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The University’s new U.P. Scholars Program aims to increase this number by building a community for some of these students that provides them with transitional support.
The first cohort in fall 2020 will consist of seven to 10 students from the U.P., according to Cheyenne Marlin, U.P. Scholars Program assistant director. Each student will be given financial assistance of up to $15,000 each year for four years.
In addition to financial support, Marlin said the program will offer students in the program any academic, social and professional assistance they may need during their time at the University.
“We know that the numbers for students from the Upper Peninsula are lower, and so we’re striving to support students from every corner of Michigan,” Marlin said. “With the distance being a huge barrier for students coming from the U.P., we think that something like this could really help students be successful here at Michigan.”
All students who apply to the University from the U.P. will automatically be considered for the program. Marlin said students will be assessed on their University application and will not be required to complete additional applications or essays.
“We’re looking for students who want to be a part of the greater U.P. community on campus, students who are involved, have leadership and high financial need so the FAFSA will be required for students,” Marlin said. “We’re taking the whole (application) into account.”
Marlin said the University is excited about the edition of this scholarship program and hopes it allows the U.P. community to build on campus. In preparation for the arrival of the inaugural cohort next fall, Marlin said the program is talking to current students from the U.P. to make sure the program offers resources the students will need.
“We’re always taking input from the current students,” Marlin said. “We want them to be as much a part of the program as they can.”
Originally from the U.P., LSA sophomore Andra Campbell said she noticed a major cultural contrast from what she was used to upon arriving to Ann Arbor. She explained the most prominent differences were the amount of people at the University and the competitive academic environment.
As a freshman, Campbell joined the Women in Science and Engineering residence program, which she said helped her create the smaller community she was looking for.
“I definitely feel like I would have been very lost without (WISE) because there’s not the academic competition in the Upper Peninsula that there is here,” Campbell said. “That was very shocking. Classes are definitely a struggle at first because you aren’t used to the rigor there is here. I’m sure that's normal for most people, but I feel like the Upper Peninsula often doesn’t have the resources that high schools down here would have to prepare you for college.”
Campbell said she thought the U.P. Scholars Program would be a great way for U.P. students to find a group they belong in at such a large academic institution.
“WISE does the same thing for me that this program would have done, I think, in that it builds a community that you’re really used to coming from a super small area,” Campbell said. “It offers the academic resources to help you catch up to where everyone else is.”
The initiative is modeled after LSA’s’ Kessler Presidential Scholars Program,which follows a similar cohort-based format for first-generation college students. Like Kessler, Marlin said the U.P. Scholars Program plans to bring in speakers to talk with students as well as offer them peer mentoring and office hours.
“We’re modeling in a smaller version, doing some of the same programming that (Kessler is) doing by taking some of the really successful components of the mentoring and the staff relationships with the students,” Marlin said.
Although the support aspect of the initiative is offered through LSA, the U.P. Scholars Program is a cross-college collaboration, meaning U.P. students enrolling in any school at the University are eligible for the program.
Music, Theater & Dance sophomore Seth Helman, also from the U.P., said the culture shock did not greatly affect him as he had grown up traveling and was introduced to different cultures. However, Helman said at first many of his friends at the University from the U.P. experienced similar problems to Campbell.
For many students from the U.P., Helman said, it is difficult to acclimate to the cultural and academic climate in Ann Arbor, which causes some to go back to study at other universities closer to home. Helman thought the U.P. Scholars Program would give these students the resources they may need to succeed at the University.
“It's a big change,” Helman said. “I think lots of people get overwhelmed by all the things you can do and all the people. I think having a program like this would help put it more in perspective and also give them the support that they need.”