A sweet suite unites 3 supportive programs

By Steven King

“We used to have a smaller suite that got kind of crowded, but now it’s nicer and bigger and a great place to do homework,” First Scholar Jessica Foster said. Photo by Steven King | Staff

UK offers programs for first-generation college students and students from Appalachian counties, and now a new suite is uniting these programs to provide an even stronger support system for the students.

The Robinson Scholars Program, First Scholars Program, and the Appalachian and Minority Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Majors, or AMSTEMM, are three student-oriented programs that have collaborated in the past, but are now located in one suite.

The First Generation Initiatives, of which the First Scholars Program is a part, is also housed there.

The suite, called “The 2-1-7,” is located in Funkhouser room 217.

The lounge is equipped with a 55-inch plasma TV, three leather couches, a refrigerator, microwave and board games.

Each program has its own office, and computers are set up in the main office for peer advisers and peer mentors.

George Lee Scott Jr., the primary contact for students in the Robinson Scholars Program, said Michael Mullen, associate provost for undergraduate education, and that office’s sponsorship of the renovation made the consolidation of these programs into one suite possible.

“Now that all these programs are housed together, it makes it easier for us to communicate,” Scott said. “Students can now support each other easier as far as being first-generation students.”

The Robinson Scholars Program provides first-generation college-bound students from 29 counties in Eastern Kentucky with full scholarships.

Shekinah Alfaro, a biology junior, is a Robinson Scholar from Hazard, Ky. Alfaro explained the vital role a primary point of contact has for a first-generation student.

“George is kind of like the father for us,” Alfaro said. “He makes sure everything is taken care of for us.”

Support also comes from peer advising, Scott said.

“The Robinson Scholars Program offers peer advising so that the first-generation students can talk to someone that understands what they’re going through,” Scott said. “This new suite will make it even easier for students to get that support.”

Scott said the different programs used to be located throughout campus.

Now, he said, students have a place to spend time together.

“Having a nice, comfortable suite like this makes the transition for college easier for any first-generation student,” said Jessica Foster, a family science sophomore and a member of the First Scholars Program. “Not only is everyone helpful, but it is a great place to meet friends who share similar experiences as you.”

Comfort and amenities are a regular experience for many UK students, but not for some first generation or students from an Appalachian county, Alfaro said.

“Some of us, if it weren’t for these programs, would be in a coal-mine or a job the next town over,” Alfaro said. “This beautiful new suite reminds us how far we’ve come.”

Scott said there will be an open house from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 23, which is open to all faculty and staff interested in seeing the lounge.