WMU using NEH grant to aid first-generation college students

Contact: Scott Bade and Jeanne Baron
Photo of Dr. Dini Metro-Roland in class.

Dr. Dini Metro-Roland, far right, during one of last year's classes.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—The National Endowment for the Humanities has awarded a $100,000 grant to Western Michigan University's Humanities for Everybody—H4E—program.

The NEH Humanities Access matching grant, announced Dec. 15, will help H4E expand and create a bridge-year program for first-generation college students transitioning to higher education.

H4E provides a series of free, rigorous humanities courses to members of the greater Kalamazoo community that are taught by experienced WMU faculty members. It is a collaboration between the University Center for the Humanities at WMU and the housing-related charity Open Doors Kalamazoo.

About the grant

Coupled with funding from other sources, the NEH grant will enable H4E to expand its efforts to serve first-generation college students by creating a bridge year between their senior year in high school and freshman year in college.

This bridge-year program will address the need for greater community involvement in preparing first-generation college students to pursue and complete their college educations.

"Unlike most bridge-year programs, where universities send students out into communities before their freshman year, we propose to bring the University to the community itself," says Dr. Dini Metro-Roland, H4E director and a WMU associate professor of teaching, learning and educational studies.

"We believe that without exposure to a rich and engaging curriculum, without emotional and academic support from committed members of the faculty, and without a safe and supportive peer group, many first-generation students will fail to take advantage of the opportunities available to them by the Kalamazoo Promise [scholarship]."

Metro-Roland says the NEH grant will not only provide essential seed money for scholarships for Promise-ineligible students, but also help offset H4E's costs for operation and orientation activities, and the hiring of a coordinator and recruiter.

About the grant principals

WMU's Humanities for Everybody program

The H4E program is a project of WMU's Center for the Humanities, which recognizes and supports the humanities at the University and in the greater Kalamazoo community. H4E brings the humanities to members of the community who traditionally lack access or the means to a liberal arts education. All program participants receive free books, tuition and supplies. There are no age or citizenship requirements for the program. Active participants also are encouraged to request assistance with their college or job applications, including references and letters of recommendation written by H4E faculty. For more information about H4E, visit humanitiesforeverybody.org.

Open Doors

Open Doors offers affordable, secure homes and personal support for people in a variety of situations who need housing. Founded in 1970, its overall aim is to create long-term solutions to the housing crisis faced by low-wage working families and individuals in the local community. According to the organization, the housing problem is especially serious for families with children. It says a parent who works 40 hours per week must earn nearly $15 per hour—more than $6 an hour above Michigan's minimum wage—to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in Kalamazoo County. For more information about Open Doors, visit opendoorskalamazoo.org.

National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Endowment for the Humanities, created in 1965, is an independent federal agency. It supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. For more information about NEH, visit neh.gov.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.