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First-Generation Students Benefit from Anonymous $10 Million Gift

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Sarah Satterwhite

Senior Editor, Strategic Content and Storytelling

Announcement  •
1GENU Students

2022 1GENU students gather on the DU campus.

University of Denver students who are the first in their families to go to college now have greater access to the resources that will help them thrive during their time at DU. A recent anonymous $10 million gift significantly expands the reach of scholarships and programs for these students.  

For the past six years, first-generation students at DU have benefitted from a support system through a program called 1GENU. The program provides mentoring for the students and programming for families so they can best support their students. 1GENU has proven remarkably successful, with participating students having some of the highest graduation rates of all DU students. Additionally, while many universities in Colorado offer similar programs and scholarships for first-generation students, DU’s outcomes for these students outshine most of them. 

The program’s success – and the donor learning about the program’s excellent mentorship and advising from a current student – inspired the gift. 

The gift will enable DU to scale that success to reach even more first-generation students through a program called FIRST@DU. Through FIRST@DU, all first-generation students will receive similar services. The gift expands the programmatic elements of FIRST@DU to serve all undergraduate and graduate first-generation students for the next five years. This funding will ensure that all first-generation students have access to the advisors, mentors, internship opportunities, and programming that build a sense of belonging and contribute to their success. Additionally, the endowed portion of the gift will ensure scholarship support for a segment of the first-generation population at DU. Through this gift, students will receive enhanced scholarship support to ensure that they can participate in all that DU has to offer. 

“We have seen through 1GENU that when we provide scholarships and support, such as committed mentorship, to all students, but especially to first-generation students, they thrive. This is the heart of DU’s holistic approach to education, the 4D Experience,” says University of Denver Chancellor, Jeremy Haefner. “This gift expands those opportunities to all first-gen students, transforming their educational journeys now – and in the lives they lead after graduation.”

“Being part of 1GENU has been very significant to me in building community, and in developing my career here and for my professional experience in the future. I was able to not only find a community within my first year, but also have really great friends and mentors throughout the program."

Marisol Jara-Amparan 4th Year 1GENU student

Funding provided by the gift will also open the door to high-impact experiences like study abroad and internships – experiences that first-generation students often do not have. Historically, first-generation students are less likely to participate in study abroad and DU’s acclaimed living and learning communities due to financial realities. FIRST@DU will expand access for all students to have such experiences that are central to DU’s holistic 4D Experience. Each student’s 4D Experience is uniquely tailored to help them thrive in their intellectual pursuits, their well-being, their character exploration, and their career journey.  

Over time, the impact of this investment in first-generation students will be felt across the DU campus and throughout the communities where our alumni live and work. These students' diversity of backgrounds and perspectives will enhance the campus experience for students and faculty alike. Our graduates will bring the benefits of a 4D education to their civic leadership, graduate schools, and the workforce, often in their communities of origin. 

“Our first-generation students are a remarkable and diverse group,” says Todd Adams, vice chancellor of Student Affairs. “With this investment in the program, far more students will have the support and resources they need to graduate and pursue their professional and personal interests, at DU and beyond.” 

“This is the one place that I felt like I had a home away from home. It brought me a sense of belonging and resources on campus. The team was always there to advocate for me and send me in the right direction. It's the main reason why I didn't transfer out of DU.”

Briana Aguilar 1GENU Alum and 2nd year Master student

Funding from this gift will provide substantial expansion of scholarships and programming for first-generation students at DU, and yet opportunities remain to grow the impact of FIRST@DU. DU has experienced a growing population of undergraduate first-generation students over time, with that group nearing 1,000 this academic year. While this philanthropic investment significantly enhances FIRST@DU, the future presents limitless opportunity to expand and include these students in our community.

To make a gift in support of first-generation students at DU through FIRST@DU, please click here.