In October 2020, UCI’s Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE) received a $50,000 grant from The Nicholas Endowment. In light of the global pandemic that has forced students to an online learning environment, this funding is more important than ever.

The Nicholas Endowment was established in 2002 with the vision of helping individuals reach their full potential. It aims to enrich the community and the world by supporting the arts, assisting the advancement of science and education and engaging other charitable organizations. While UCI is one of the five organizations that The Nicholas Endowment regularly donates to, this year marks the first time that the DUE has received this funding.

According to Kevin M. Huie, Executive Director of Student Success, this funding will allow the DUE to move forward with plans established prior to the pandemic. Specifically, the funds will play an important role in developing online modules that will engage, educate and provide opportunities for UCI’s diverse student body. 

“Minority students and students from unstable, less affluent or otherwise under-resourced backgrounds have a lower rate of success at UCI in comparison to their peers,” Kevin explains. Fortunately, with support from The Nicholas Endowment, he feels confident that UCI can close this achievement gap. “These funds will allow us to create virtual modules to onboard more of these students, creating a sense of community, giving them a head start on their educational journey and ultimately setting them up for continued success.”Kevin emphasizes that these modules are designed for student “onboarding” rather than “orientation.” He clarifies:

“‘Onboarding’ is often used synonymously with ‘orientation.’ However, there is one specific difference that I believe is important to note. Orientation can sometimes infer a one-size-fits-all approach to informing students about what there is to know about the institution. On the other hand, onboarding describes the priorities that are necessary for individual students to feel engaged. Onboarding students in consideration of their individual needs is an important approach to effective retention as it involves the ongoing process of building engagement.”

With an anticipated launch date in January 2021, Kevin and the development team are striving to create 10-20 modules covering topics such as financial literacy, navigating university resources, exploring research opportunities, adjusting to remote learning and much more. 

In addition to these online onboarding modules, a portion of these funds will go towards virtually connecting incoming students with peer mentors and offering virtual counseling sessions. The funds will also be used to track the progress of these efforts and build best practices for expanding these support services to reach the 9,000 UCI students who can benefit from these programs. 

With the move to a remote learning environment amplifying the anxiety and uncertainty that many students already feel while transitioning to college, the funds from The Nicholas Endowment are coming at a crucial time. According to Matthew Princetta, Director of Development, this funding will allow the DUE to safely offer the assistance, engagement opportunities and support that students need to thrive at UCI. He says:

“This is an exciting opportunity because it gives us a chance to reflect and capitalize on what we’ve learned over the past six to eight months. We can use this experience to provide students with the appropriate preparation and tools to engage in college life in the most effective ways possible—whether we operate remotely or not.”

For more information on The Nicholas Endowment, please visit their website here. To learn more about the many services that the DUE offers UCI students, visit their website here. To support the DUE, click here.