We Are All Marquette: RISE fosters inclusive environment for underrepresented students at Marquette

By Ana Luci Gonzalez Nuñez, Communications Intern at the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion

Ready to Inspire Success and Excellence (RISE) is a multicultural pre-orientation program that hosts underrepresented students for three days at Marquette University. RISE offers freshman and transfer students the opportunity to build a community, ask questions and settle on campus alongside peers of similar backgrounds and with the guidance of a peer mentor.

This program is hosted by the Office of Engagement and Inclusion with support from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, and other offices within the Department of Student Affairs. This year, Dr. Jen Reid, Director of Alumni Memorial Union and Student Engagement, along with Lester Harris, Graduate Assistant, Peer Engagement Programs, RISE.

dr Reid shares that RISE is a “great start for participating students to build a community with one another and find a place in Marquette and a sense of belonging. Seeing people who look alike, have a similar background, or have had similar experiences builds camaraderie.”

To kick off the program, incoming students have a welcome meal to get acquainted with their fellow students and mentors. Later, they have the opportunity to explore the campus and its resources such as the Office of Student Education and the Counseling Center. Mentors and program staff take the time to help students understand and navigate financial assistance. Mentor-to-mentee debriefings at the end of the program also provide students with an opportunity to raise concerns and express the many feelings they feel upon coming to campus. Finally, this group of students share a final breakfast before heading into orientation with new familiar faces to count on.

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Not only does RISE help build a community among underrepresented students, many of these student participants also take on leadership roles during their time on campus. One example is Maxwell Dixon, a graduate of Opus College of Engineering and RISE alumnus, who served as the Spring 2022 bachelor’s commencement speaker. Maddi Sanchez, a Klingler College of Arts and Sciences senior with a major in speech-language pathology and audiology with a minor in neuroscience and a 2019 RISE participant, is another example of an emerging leader.

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RISE allowed Sanchez to forge strong, long-lasting connections. She cites the program’s former director, Clara Dwyer, as a mentor on her journey into higher education.

“RISE has helped me be more confident,” says Sanchez. “It has helped me develop into a good leader; It has helped me see the different sides of higher education and community building as a person of color.”

Now a three-time RISE mentor, Sanchez plans to continue her studies in speech pathology as a graduate student at Marquette next year.

Paris Wooden, a multifaceted freshman at Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, attended RISE over the summer. Wooden came to Marquette because our ideal of “being the difference” appealed to her, and the RISE program felt it would be a good place to start for exploration, self-discovery, and connection.

“When I heard about this program at Marquette, I really wanted to participate because it would be a support system for first-generation black students like me,” says Wooden. “So when the opportunity presented itself, I knew I had to take it.”

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Although RISE shares some similar information to Orientation and Spark, it differs from other incoming student programs at Marquette in that it continues to nurture and nurture the initial relationship established throughout the program. RISE coordinates get-togethers with students from all cohorts to reconnect and provide opportunities to meet new people throughout the academic year. And mentors stay in touch with freshman and transfer students to serve as additional resources.

Harris, a graduate assistant in peer engagement programs, continues that RISE is what students put into the program.

“RISE offers students the opportunity to receive the attention they deserve and be connected early to resources on campus, and not only that, it brings them to other students and communities close to them,” says Harris.

Especially as a student of color, it’s not that easy to find your community once the semester gets rolling. RISE is here to help students adjust to college life and get the guidance they need.

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