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Access characterizes prosperity. Doraime Ercia Soriano ’22 knows her parents’ decision to immigrate from Cuba to Laredo, Texas when she was a baby was based on their desire for a better life. The couple dreamed their three children would earn a college degree. Their decision heightened the family’s potential access to higher education. For the Ercia family, prosperity was defined by access.
Several barriers to that dream emerged. The cost of higher education was out of reach for Ercia’s parents, who respectively work as a high school cafeteria employee and a City of Laredo worker who was forced to take disability. Additionally, as a first-generation college student, Ercia lacked a trusted family member who could guide her on this academic journey.
Fortunately, Mays and Texas A&M University invest in the future of Ercia and other exceptional students who are underrepresented across campus by providing significant financial and programmatic support. “If we think about prosperity for this group of students, one of our overarching goals is to create access to successful undergraduate experiences where students can thrive,” said Dr. Nancy Hutchins ’10, a clinical assistant professor and director of Mays Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “The ability to thrive and attain their full potential – through enhanced access – is a form of prosperity.”
Mays recognizes and celebrates new investors in the vision and mission of our college from 2020.
See the 2020 New Gifts
Mays’ student success programming for first-generation, lower-income students began with the creation of the Regents Ambassador Program (RAP) in 2013. Since its inception, RAP has supported a total of 511 students who have received either a Texas A&M Regents Scholarship or Mays Dean’s Scholarship.
RAP’s success comes from creating a strong sense of belonging for each freshman cohort of 50-90 business students. First-year students are grouped to form RAP families with student peer leaders who provide individualized attention. RAP community members also receive academic support and professional development opportunities that prepare them to continue being successful after graduation.
The program also offers a unique international experience, although the pandemic forced its cancellation during the past two years. Thanks to corporate sponsors such as Phillips 66, KPMG, PwC, PepsiCo and the 80/20 Foundation, students have access to international trips to destinations such as South Africa, France, the United Kingdom, and Portugal. “They get exposed to new cultures and really unique experiences that push them out of their comfort zone. They gain a higher level of confidence that is truly transformative,” said Hutchins, who envisions expanding this option to serve more students in the future.
RAP students can also assume organizational leadership positions once they complete their freshman year. “Towards the end of their first year, students can apply to be sophomore peer leaders, called RAP Ambassadors,” Hutchins said. “Ambassadors help support freshmen in their first-year transition by serving as mentors and advocates. They also help us by communicating if a student needs additional help or support.”
After their sophomore year, students can apply to serve on the RAP board, which assists with planning the program’s various events, such as the new student orientation and a welcome luncheon.
A Culture of Access
Mays Office of Diversity and Inclusion encourages and supports the creation of a school-wide culture of access through a variety of programming. Launched in 2019, The Inclusive Student Leadership Workshop series, sponsored by Accenture, engages all leaders of Mays’ recognized student organizations in exploring diversity and inclusion topics and skills.
Initiated in 2020, the Inclusive Leadership Education and Development (I.LEAD) initiative trains Mays student leaders who are involved with three of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s major programs: RAP, the Mays Transformational Leadership Academy, and the Leadership Initiative Conference. “The I.LEAD initiative provides student leaders with a structured curriculum about diversity and inclusion, and what it means to be an inclusive leader,” said Hutchins.
Mays also is piloting the 100K Mentor Challenge by ProMazo. This app matches mentors and students from underrepresented groups. “This is another way for students to receive support and add to their network to help them with their career exploration,” Hutchins said.
At the university level, Mays is part of the Deans CARE (Deans Committed to Anti-Racism Efforts), which is investing in creating a vibrant climate for diversity and inclusion across Aggieland. As the first Mays intern for this effort, Doraime Ercia Soriano, mentioned above, is working with the Mays Office of Diversity and Inclusion to develop structured inclusive student leadership curricula for I.LEAD based on data, applying the hard skills learned in classes to benefit current and future students.
Ercia, a supply chain management major, Regents Scholar, and fellow in Texas A&M’s Race, Identity and Social Equity (RISE) program, appreciates the access she has to the many opportunities provided through Mays and Texas A&M. She also understands that her time in Aggieland is instrumental in preparing her for a fulfilling and successful life. “At the age of 21, I have built a network that has opened doors for me and my career after graduation,” Ercia said. “These programs have allowed me to grow as an individual. They gave me the confidence I needed to believe in myself and understand I’m here for a reason. I’m not here to be a statistic.” Hutchins has a deep appreciation for these sentiments as well as the journey these students are undertaking. “Being a first-generation student at Mays is very much a shared success for anyone in the student’s personal network,” she said. “It’s not just access to higher education for the individual student. It’s gaining access to generational prosperity. Improving equity and access to higher education through programs like these helps students overcome barriers that had previously inhibited access to achieving that kind of prosperity.”
Get involved! Contact Nancy Hutchins to discuss opportunities.