Penn knows what it’s like to be first: it’s America’s first university, after all, and home to the nation’s first student union, first double-decker college football stadium, and the world’s first collegiate school of business.
That’s why Penn continually strives to be among the first in higher education to uniquely support its trailblazing first-generation and/or lower-income undergraduates as they learn to navigate the ins and outs of college life. Enter Penn First Plus, a top priority of The Power of Penn Campaign.
“We understand that first-generation, lower-income students and their families might be unfamiliar with an institution as large and complex as Penn,” explains Marc Lo, the Executive Director of Penn First Plus. “We have intentionally built relationships across the University to help these students explore all Penn has to offer.”
Like the chance to deepen their engagement with world-class faculty. Penn First Plus has two faculty co-directors working with liaisons from each of the undergraduate schools to help empower first-generation and/or lower-income students to connect more closely with their professors. The intended result: increased opportunities for research collaboration, one-on-one mentorship with faculty, and guidance as they advance in their academic and professional careers. Outside of the classroom, Penn’s College Achievement Program offers an array of academic support, including coaching, counseling, and advice on how to conduct a job search or apply to graduate school.
Realizing the University’s fullest vision for Penn First Plus is largely dependent on donor philanthropy. Additional plans include a dedicated Penn First Plus Center in College Hall, which will foster a sense of belonging and serve as a central location where undergraduates can congregate and meet with staff from offices such as Student Registration and Financial Services and Career Services. The program is committed to enriching the student experience beyond the academic year as well. From summer course grants to funding for internships and Penn Summer Abroad, the goal is to make sure that no opportunity is out of reach due to economic circumstances.
“The students we admit to Penn are among the most talented in the world,” Lo says. “They are capable of making the most of their Penn education, and it is therefore our shared responsibility to ask what we—as an institution—can do to more effectively help them reach their full potential.”