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University 101 Programs

University 101 Helps First-Generation Student Feel at Home

Posted on: April 16, 2020


Marvin Mitchell’s very first journal entry in U101 read, “I’ve been having trouble making friends at UofSC, and I don’t really understand why. Maybe it’s because I’m not out of my shell yet? Maybe I’m not comfortable here.”

During the first weeks of college, Marvin considered transferring to a smaller school. “I thought I was going to come to UofSC, have fun, and make a ton of friends, but the first part of the semester wasn’t like that at all. I missed home and I felt like a number here. I’m a small-town kid so I was used to everybody knowing who I am and this was the complete opposite. I had these lecture classes where you go into a big lecture hall and the only way they know you’re there is because of the iClicker.”

My eureka moment was realizing that I can’t leave this place that has so many great opportunities for me to grow as a person and as a leader. I remember thinking, if I want to be the best Marvin I can be, I can’t leave this University.

- Marvin Mitchell

Marvin, a first-generation student from Saint Matthews, South Carolina, is now a Junior and remembers that his turning point came when his University 101 Graduate Leader, Tyra Young, read his journal entry and pulled him aside to make sure he was doing okay. “She talked to me privately and was like, ‘you have a class of 15 friends right here!’” Marvin says this exchange was the first of many moments in University 101 that made him realize his instructors cared about him and that he was a valued member of the Carolina community.

It’s the simple things that made a difference for Marvin. “U101 pushed me outside my comfort zone. I wasn’t a big talker. I’m a shy introvert upon first meeting, but my instructor, Rebecca Keilty, pushed us to talk, she wanted to hear our opinions. She would always ask, Marvin, how do you feel? It was the only course where I felt like my opinion mattered. That made me feel valued.”

While the specific details of Marvin’s story are unique to him, there are countless stories like his. Many students find that having a close-knit community, small class, and caring instructor and peer leader are instrumental in helping them to succeed and persist into their second year. For first-generation students, the impact of University 101 is profound. Notably, 84.4% of first-generation students who took U101 persisted to their sophomore year compared to 72.7% of first-generation students who did not take the class – an 11.7% difference.

My classmates and I have persevered through a lot, but we have a different mindset. College means that much more to us. It’s more than just what I can do for me. I’m creating a foundation for my legacy. 

- Marvin Mitchell

Marvin explained that other aspects of University 101 also led to his success, including the focus on connecting with opportunities and resources at the University of South Carolina. “When I met with Tyra, she talked about different leadership roles on campus like being a Resident Mentor. She’s the one who encouraged me to be an RM, and that position has opened me up to more and more opportunities.”

Campus Partner Presentations also helped Marvin to find his niche at Carolina. “In class we talked to people from the Leadership and Service Center, and now I’m a Service Saturday Site Leader and I volunteer with the Gamecock Food Pantry.” Taking University 101 helped Marvin to see how the opportunities at South Carolina could help him reach his goals. “My eureka moment was realizing that I can’t leave this place that has so many great opportunities for me to grow as a person and as a leader. I remember thinking, if I want to be the best Marvin I can be, I can’t leave this University. That’s one of the things that drove me to stay here. And I love UofSC now, as cliché as it sounds, this is home.”

We created a sense of community where we wanted to build each other up. I’m still friends with half the class, and we’re all excelling. We started as a U101 class where we didn’t know anyone and we left feeling like we were a family. And that’s one of the greatest gifts ever.

- Marvin Mitchell

Being in an Opportunity Scholars Program section of University 101 also helped Marvin to navigate the struggles of being first-generation but also filled him with a sense of pride. “My classmates and I have persevered through a lot, but we have a different mindset. College means that much more to us. It’s more than just what I can do for me. I’m creating a foundation for my legacy. And it was great to be around people who shared similar characteristics, who also didn’t have opportunities but are still here and are still striving. We created a sense of community where we wanted to build each other up. I’m still friends with half the class, and we’re all excelling. We started as a U101 class where we didn’t know anyone and we left feeling like we were a family. And that’s one of the greatest gifts ever.”


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