Patricia and John Morgan Academic Advancement Fund Supports UMKC Student Retention, Achievement

Consistent and significant funding enhances student success, degree completion. Photo by Brandon Parigo | UMKC
Students sit at round tables. In the center one student is looking off in the distance and smiling with her chin resting in her hand

For the past decade, the Patricia and John Morgan Academic Advancement Fund has supported UMKC programs that help students successfully navigate their college experience. 

The fund’s most recent gift of $60,000 over two years supports students from the time they are introduced to UMKC through the transitions that follow – from acceptance to enrollment and beyond – with graduation as the goal.

Summer Bridge Scholars, an intensive eight-week program for incoming first-year students to help prepare them for college at UMKC, is one of the programs the Morgan Fund supports. In addition to their classes, students participate in programming on careers, culture, academic skill-building and community engagement.

“Funds from the Patricia and John Morgan Fund help our students become connected to the Kansas City community,” Megan Elsen, associate director of Academic Support and Mentoring, says. “We work in conjunction with our Multicultural Student Affairs office to develop programming that expose students to the city’s history and the different cultures that Kansas City offers, including tours showcasing the city’s varied food, music and art opportunities, to give them a taste of the community. Tuition, room and board and the extracurricular activities are possible because of the support from the Morgan Fund.”

Laura Casey, academic success coordinator for Summer Bridge Scholars, notes that the fund supports a broad range of students.

“A large majority of our students are first-generation and low-income,” she says. “We see lower (high school) GPAs and ACT scores, if students submit them, so they may need additional academic support, which we provide.”

Summer Bridge students may have more basic needs as well.

“We provide backpacks, school supplies, and put together welcome packages that include sheets, towels and a laundry basket, because a lot of students who live in the dorms don’t have what they need. Literally, we have students show up with just a duffel bag.”

In addition, new students are introduced to established UMKC programs within the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs including Avanzando, a support and resource program for Latinx students; African Americans Cultivating Excellence (AACE); and Emerging Research Scholars, which offers high-achieving, historically underrepresented students research projects in their field of study with faculty mentors.

These programs are based on the belief that connecting students to the UMKC community is essential to their success.

“It’s important to get students engaged early in their college experience, and the majority of the Morgan funding goes toward helping our scholars in the AACE and Avanzando Mentoring Programs get connected to the community as a whole,” Keichanda Dees-Burnett, assistant dean of students for student support and director of Multicultural Student Affairs, says. “We want them to be knowledgeable about the resources available to them and have a good start so that they can succeed.”

The AACE and Avanzando Programs are designed to increase persistence and graduation rates for first- and second-year students by providing individualized support to help not only support the cultural identity of scholars, but to also help them reach their academic and career goals.

Roland Hemmings, Jr., assistant director of Multicultural Student Affairs, knows that students who don’t become connected early may wait too long to ask for help – if they ask at all. His approach to student support is not a set formula.

“Every year the needs of students change, so there isn’t a cookie cutter approach,” Hemmings says. “We have general programming that addresses common barriers to student success, but we take the time to talk with students individually about what help they need and help them find the right direction,” Hemming says.

Dees-Burnett notes that staff spend a great deal of time with students reinforcing that there are people and resources at UMKC who are eager to help them.

“They may be intimidated, but we tell them, ‘Everybody here is working for your success.’ We encourage  them to ask questions so they don’t find out they are making a mistake that could have been avoided.”

Hemmings agrees.

“We are reinforcing that it is better to ask questions early, so we create a safe space where they understand that everyone is here to help and support them .”

The support of the Patricia and John Morgan Advancement Fund has been critical to student success.

“Significant and consistent support from the Morgan Fund is providing life-changing opportunity for UMKC students,” Jennifer Lundgren, Ph.D., provost and executive vice chancellor, says. “The success of these students will impact their futures, their families and our community for generations.”

Published: Jan 10, 2023
Posted In: Giving

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