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Award will advance opportunities, community for diverse students

WVU Today

Students in underrepresented groups at West Virginia University will have expanded opportunities for success as they work toward academic success and graduation.

A $17,500 grant from the Enterprise Holdings Foundation will support RISE WVU, an Office of Student Success program that helps Black, Latinx and other diverse students build an academic community and complete their degrees.

Program initiatives include success coaching and mentoring, a first-year seminar course, a student-led organization, regular events and a living-learning community that creates a safe space for minority students.

The contribution is a piece of the ROAD Forward commitment to allocate $35 million to more than 70 global Enterprise operating teams to drive local impact as part of its broader commitment to donate $55 million over five years to organizations that advance social and racial equity in the communities where it operates.

“It’s important to have that safe space,” Program Coordinator Niara Campbell said. “There’s a definite need to have and foster community amongst people of color to sit, communicate, have conversations about the institution and how we experience the institution through feelings of isolation or imposter syndrome.”

RISE WVU launched in 2019 to help boost retention rates for minority students at WVU. While growing the program has been a challenge amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Campbell noted that RISE is essential to cultivating diversity among WVU’s student population. The program complements broader efforts to create a more inclusive environment for students, faculty and staff across WVU’s campuses.

“Programs like RISE are important because not every student looks the same,” Mia Sebastian, a RISE WVU student participant, said. “There aren’t resources, and it stems from not having the need. As the school diversifies, the needs of the school change to help minority students feel comfortable.”

Sebastian said one of the most impactful events she attended was a panel discussion focused on self-worth held in conjunction with National Black Love Day. With the grant support from the Enterprise Holdings Foundation, Campbell hopes to offer more free events like that one to empower students to grow and succeed.

“We really want to make sure students are tapping into their resources and are not kept from obtaining an education,” Campbell said. “My program uses community development to help build self-efficacy and support racial-identity models to positively affect their student, academic and social life.”

The Enterprise Holdings Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Enterprise Holdings, which, through its integrated network of independent regional subsidiaries and franchise, operates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental and Alamo Rent A Car brands. Previous grants to WVU have supported the John Chambers College of Business and Economics and WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital.

The grant funding was awarded through the WVU Foundation, the nonprofit organization that receives and administers private donation on behalf of the university.

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