ACEing It

students hold hands in solidarity and support.

New funding to help more students thrive

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Dickinson’s impactful Academic & Co-Curricular Excellence (A.C.E.) program just got a monumental boost. A $1 million gift will substantially expand the five-year-old program, which provides personalized support to first-year students from historically underrepresented populations.

The first-years are paired with trained peer-mentors who can offer on-the-ground advice on anything from how to ask professors for help to the best study and snack spots. A.C.E. workshops and social events bring the whole group together each month to learn new skills and deepen friendships. This multilayered approach can make a big difference in the lives of students who can benefit from it most, setting the stage for their ongoing success.

Poised to grow

Currently, 20 A.C.E. peer mentors connect with one (sometimes two) first-year students each. The new $1 million gift, provided by donors who wish to remain anonymous, makes the A.C.E. program available to more first-year students of color, international students and first-generation college students without compromising the individualized attention they receive.

Part of the gift provides for the creation of, and five years’ salary and benefits for, a new assistant-director within Dickinson’s Popel Shaw Center for Race & Ethnicity (PSC). This addition will enable the PSC to train and oversee more student-mentors. More mentors means that more first-years will be able to take part.

The new funding also increases the program’s special-events and workshops budget, giving all participating students more opportunities to learn together and connect. Finally, a part of the gift will be set aside as seed money to endow the A.C.E. program.

"The peer-mentors and I are deeply grateful to the donor whose generosity is making the expansion possible and to the program's many departmental supporters at Dickinson," says Yvette Davis, director of the PSC. "I also would like to express many thanks to the peer-mentors and mentees, whose leadership and community-building efforts make this a powerful program with academic, social and professional impact during their time at Dickinson and far beyond."

A banner spring

This program expansion is just part of the college’s ongoing work toward a more inclusive campus environment, which has made several major leaps forward recently.

And, during the same month that Dickinson welcomed a new director for its Center for the Futures of Native Peoples, we also saw big news for the PSC. The PSC, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, will soon have a new home on West Louther Street, featuring dedicated spaces for visiting scholars, workshops and small-group discussions. 

Additionally, Dickinson launched two new grants supporting faculty- and staff-led initiatives that strengthen a sense of belonging, community and inclusion. And faculty and staff affinity groups are in the works. 

“I extend a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the generous donors who are helping us realize our vision and to President Jones for his support of these initiatives,” says Tony Boston, Dickinson’s chief diversity officer. “These developments represent significant progress toward achieving our diversity, equity and inclusivity goals.”


Published June 4, 2024