Elevating Experiences are innovative strategies the RISE
program has employed to connect with and empower student
participants. Recent Elevating Experiences have included
dinner at a renowned restaurant and golf lessons at a local golf
course. Experiences will continue to be developed and refined.
Book Scholarship Incentive
RISE students often cannot afford to purchase the required
textbooks for their academic courses. To address this disparity, the program has allocated funds to use for the purchase
of books. To be considered for a book scholarship, a student
must successfully complete all required program components
and re-enroll in the program across successive semesters.
Mentoring Dinners and Other Activities
Student participants and mentors are required to attend
Sunday evening meals with their mentors. The dinners include
guest speakers and are designed to forge a close and supportive
relationship between mentors and mentees.
The RISE program evaluation methodology involves the
administration of several surveys. The surveys are designed
to collect student feedback and measure the impact of
The undergraduate years represent a period of significant
change for students. During this transitional time, mentors
play important roles in helping students transition to college.
The RISE program demonstrates a complete institutional
commitment to student development by combining academics, socialization, mentoring, and community involvement to
provide students with comprehensive learning experiences.
A positive and focused college experience has a long-lasting
effect, both professionally and personally. The development of
individual strengths and competencies has positive social and
political implications for the University of Pittsburgh as well as
society as a whole. As one student stated, “I learned so much
about trying to attain what I want to be.” As demonstrated by
the promise of the RISE program, universities and colleges can
take steps to stem the tide of departure for many students and
can reverse the troubling national trends of poor retention and
graduation rates for under-represented students. LE
Deborah Walker is the assistant to the dean in the Office of Student
Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh.
Building Skills In and Out of the Classroom
For Kellen Hill, participation in the RISE program boosted his academic performance and also provided a host of networking skills. As a sophomore, Hill, who graduated with a BS in sociology and a minor in psychology in spring 2008 from the University of Pittsburgh, was
approached by the dean of students to join the program. “I struggled as a freshman,” admits Hill,
who says the program gave him the motivation he needed.
From study sessions to academic coaching to special community-building events, the RISE
program provides students with extra support as they move through their academic careers.
“One of the best features of the program is the sense of community it instills,” says Hill. “This
program gave me an opportunity to get to know a diverse group of students, which enhanced my
Hill, who has worked as a mentor for the RISE program, notes some of the most common
concerns among students. “Many freshmen are intimidated by the size of the university and do
not feel that they can speak freely with their professors. At the same time, they are learning to live
Students from outside the Pittsburgh area and first-generation college students face additional
challenges. “I often get phone calls late at night, when students are studying and feeling lonely.
A simple conversation can give them the extra push out of the nest they
need,” says Hill. “We really try to help them in any way we can.”
The program influenced Hill’s career pursuits as well. After meeting a
social worker through the program, Hill became interested in the field. He
will receive his Master of Social Work from the university in 2010.