Going to college at the University of Montevallo is one thing. But it’s another thing to come out on the other side of it M.A.D.E.
M.A.D.E., which stands for Minorities Achieving Dreams of Excellence, was started by Dr. Kristalyn Lee, vice president for administrative affairs, and a colleague, in 2019 with 23 students as a formal President’s Office initiative after its pilot program experienced success in 2015. Jason Perry, director of student diversity recruitment and retention, leads the program.
It aims to assist minority students in overcoming the social, emotional, academic and professional challenges that come with attending college by providing a safe and supportive environment where they can grow and connect with relatable students.
In helping minority students overcome these obstacles, the University hopes to retain them and help them graduate within four years.
“We take a holistic approach to help them achieve success on campus,” Perry said. “We offer scholarship opportunities, mentoring and study groups and expose them to minority professionals, leadership opportunities, ambassadorships, internships and any other way we can find to help them be successful.”
“At the University level, this is our way of investing in our minority students.”
The M.A.D.E. program’s results speak for themselves.
The student retention rate at the University overall is 70% for Black students, 71% for white students, 65% for Hispanic students and 66% for Asian students. For M.A.D.E. students, it’s more than 90%.
“You’re going to graduate,” Lee said. “Even if I have to get you across that stage myself.”
Carolyn Jones, special assistant for executive and administrative affairs, said they don’t want any students to be lost.
“We want them to not just find us, but we want to find them, and we want them from the beginning of their time here, so they don’t feel like they don’t know their place,” Jones said. “We want to be a part of helping them feel that they belong to something. We want to be their home away from home. They belong at Montevallo.”
In addition to its high retention rate, the program boasts:
- $175,000 awarded in scholarships
- 25+ majors represented
- 20 M.A.D.E. student ambassadors having served the program each year
- 125% membership increase since 2020
Perry said after the program launched it progressively expanded. In 2020, it grew to 45 students. In the year following that, it expanded to 70.
Today, the program has about 200 students.
One of the keys to their success is connecting with students early – early as in before they graduate high school.
“Once we connect with a senior in high school and they apply to the University, Jason will communicate with them through our newsletter that we send out weekly,” Lee said. “That’s an opportunity for them to see Jason’s name and get comfortable with the idea of this person they’ve never met.”
“From there, students who choose to participate in the program come for early orientation, which is two days before Move-in Day for all other first-time students. There, they’re given the opportunity to mesh as a cohort, and it gives their parents an opportunity to meet us so they can get comfortable with the idea of leaving their children with us.”
Once in M.A.D.E., students have the opportunity to participate in monthly programming.
Perry said their programming reflects their goals.
“That might mean partnerships with the Grainger Center for Professional Development, bringing in alum to talk about how they’re successful as a young minority in their field, or partnering with TRIO to launch a study group initiative.”
Students are also given individualized Professional Academic Community and Emotional goals, or PACE.
PACE meetings set a precedent on what students are expected to achieve while in the M.A.D.E. program.
“If they’re PACEing, they’re on the path to proceed toward graduation,” Jones said. “The goals they set during their PACE meeting follow them around on campus through graduate school as well.”
Jones said PACEing keeps students engaged with helpers on campus so when challenges and problems arise, they don’t drop out. Instead, the people they’re connected with help them create a plan to overcome whatever it is they’re having problems with.
Lee said connecting students to the Learning Enrichment Center for academic counseling is one of the ways they stay on track.
“We also do mental health awareness, and try to get them plugged in early so when our students have issues and things go wrong in life, they know they’re supported,” Perry said.
“It all comes back to retention. When you ask, ‘why are our students leaving the University?’ You see all these issues come into play.”
In addition to monthly programming and PACEing, M.A.D.E. holds fun social events to help students build relationships with each other.
So, what does a successful M.A.D.E. student look like?
Perry said a M.A.D.E. student is supported, exposed and connected to helpful people, programs and resources, has successfully navigated through life obstacles while in school, has been challenged to grow beyond their comfort zones, has achieved personal goals, is progressing toward achieving larger goals, graduates on time and leaves more confident than when they started.
“When a student comes back to us and is excited to let us know what they’ve achieved, that’s when we win,” Perry said. “When we know they didn’t think they could do that when they came to us, but now through the support of M.A.D.E., their friends and mentors they feel like they can do it.
“Once they achieve something it keeps pushing them to reach for more. And that’s what we want.”
What does M.A.D.E. offer?
- Early orientation
- Renewable scholarships
- Monthly meetings
- Personalized academic coaching
- Access to the M.A.D.E. building, which includes spaces for studying, classes, mentorship and fellowship
- M.A.D.E. exclusive campus events
- Field trips such as to Equal Justice Initiative’s Legacy Museum and Peace and Justice Memorial Center
- Individualized mentorship opportunities
- M.A.D.E. Ambassador program offers students experience in social media, events, recruitment, mentoring, incentivizing engagement, Hispanic relations and promotional content
- Job shadowing/internships
What are the requirements?
- Must be admitted to UM
- Must represent an underrepresented minority at UM
- Must apply for federal financial aid
- Must complete all application materials by the indicated deadlines
To apply, visit montevallo.edu/made
For more information, contact the M.A.D.E. program at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-665-6219.