DENVER – Going to college is an important milestone for many, but first-generation college students may have additional challenges. Thanks to a new program at CU Denver, however, these students are able to find support and community as they step into this next stage in life.
CU’s First-Generation and Multicultural business program, otherwise known as FaM, is spearheaded by Nimol Hen – a first-generation college graduate who came to the U.S. as a child refugee. Before becoming director of FaM, Hen worked in academic advising for over 20 years.
Speaking with Denver7, Hen said FaM is aimed at supporting students who identify as first-generation or multicultural students, to help them achieve their academic goals and help them on the path toward graduating college and find jobs within the world of business.
FaM helps students, “really navigate college, activate opportunities and bring them into spaces and places that they normally may not see themselves in, so that we can really ensure that they feel supported, that they feel like they have a place they can call home and deepen community ties,” Hen said.
She said the program was born in 2020 after hearing from first-generation students who felt they needed to see themselves reflected in the business industry but also out of a renewed commitment by the CU Denver business school to support underrepresented groups in society.
“Recognizing that our students were also echoing the sentiments, our leadership and our industry partners, really stepped up and decided to double down on their commitment to supporting student’s success, ensuring that more students have equitable opportunities, more are connected to opportunities and people and events that help them shape their careers and feel like they can navigate college successfully,” Hen told Denver7. “Ultimately, that they understand that they are a valued part of this community.”
Ronnie Solano and Joseph De Oliveira are two students currently enrolled in the program who say the program has helped them get exposed to a myriad of companies, while at the same time helping them develop the skills they need to become competitive prospects once they graduate.
“I didn’t have access to any of this stuff and it can be intimidating stepping through that doorway and knowing you can be successful in something,” said De Oliveira. “This program has reassured me and made me feel a sense of belonging, and a place that I can identify even though we're multicultural.”
Both agreed that being first-generation students can be challenging as there’s really no personal family support when looking at things like financial aid or submitting applications for things associated with the college process.
“What this organization has done is created an atmosphere where questions are encouraged. Everything matters, especially if you’re just going through it all on your own for the first time,” said Solano. “Having the community is huge, having that support is huge.”
Some of things people at FaM can get help on include internships, experiential learning, and events built around the program’s key themes of leadership, service, and career. They can also get advice and guidance on financial support via scholarship and paid internship, as well as mentorship opportunities with peers, alumni, and business professionals. Lastly, students that are part of FaM have increased access to academic/career readiness services that prepare students to launch their careers.
Those interested applying to FaM can access more information and the application form by clicking here.