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

Ready to Inspire Success and Excellence (RISE) is a multicultural pre-orientation program that hosts underrepresented students at Marquette University for three days. RISE offers first-year and transfer students the opportunity to build community, ask questions and settle into the campus alongside peers with 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 Division of Student Affairs. This year Dr. Jen Reid, director of the Alumni Memorial Union and student engagement, co-led RISE, along with Lester Harris, graduate assistant for peer engagement Programs.

Dr. Reid shares that for participating students, RISE is a “great start for their building community with each other and finding a place at Marquette, finding a sense of belonging. Seeing people who look like them and have similar backgrounds or have had similar experiences builds comradery.”

To kick off the program, incoming students have a welcome dinner to familiarize themselves with their peers and mentors. Later on, they have the opportunity to explore campus and its resources such as the Office of Student Educational Services and the Counseling Center. Mentors and program staff take the time to help students understand and navigate financial aid. Mentor-to-mentee debriefs at the end of the program also provide a space for students to voice any concerns and express the many feelings they are experiencing in coming to campus. Lastly, this group of students shares a final breakfast before going into orientation with new familiar faces they can count on.

Not only does RISE help build a foundation of community among underrepresented students, but many of those student participants also go on to fulfill leadership roles during their time on campus. One example is Maxwell Dixon, Opus College of Engineering graduate and RISE alumnus, who was the spring 2022 undergraduate student commencement speaker. Maddi Sanchez, a senior in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences majoring in speech pathology and audiology and minoring in neuroscience, and a 2019 RISE participant, is another example of a rising leader.

Through RISE, Sanchez was able to develop strong long-lasting connections. She points to the program’s former director Clara Dwyer as a mentor in her journey in higher education.

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

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

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

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

Although RISE includes some similar information as Orientation and Spark, it distinguishes itself from other programs for incoming students at Marquette because it continues to mentor and foster the initial relationship made during the program. RISE coordinates get-togethers with students from all cohorts to connect again throughout the academic year and provide opportunities to meet new people. And mentors remain connected with first-year and transfer students to serve as additional resources.

Harris, graduate assistant for peer engagement programs, goes on to say that RISE is what students choose to put into the program.

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

Especially as a student of color, finding your community is not as easy once the semester gets rolling. RISE is here to support students acclimate to college life and receive the guidance they need.