For many students, the idea of “what comes after college” is daunting. Under the guidance of Dr. Pedro Douglas, the NASPA Undergraduate Fellows Program at Chico State assists students as they forge the next path in their career destination.
Under the NASPA program, NUFP’s purpose is to encourage underrepresented students of color to consider careers in higher education, diversifying upper-level administration on college campuses.
Originally called the Minority Undergrad Fellows Program (MUFP), it changed five years ago to broaden the scope of focus to students with disabilities, those who come from marginalized communities, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ+.
Douglas started NUFP at Chico State in 2001, after moving from director of the health center to his current position as associate vice president of Student Affairs. The majority of students who come to Douglas interested in the program, or careers in higher education, are referred directly by faculty, staff, or one of his colleagues.
“NUFP mentors must be a current member of NASPA, and the program says we need to meet once a month,” Douglas said. “Here though, we meet every week at least for an hour.”
Education is a key factor with the five students that participate in the program. At the NUFP weekly meetings, they discuss higher education as a profession. They go over the application process for typical jobs in the occupation, and the steps it takes to get your master’s degree, in-depth.
“A lot of students won’t even apply to grad school because they hate getting denied,” Douglas said. “I try to take the fear out of that.”
Students do not get credit for their participation in the program. They need a minimum grade point average of 2.5, but most importantly, they need the dedication to succeed.
“There are students who come to our meetings that aren’t NUFP students,” Douglas said. “They’ll come and say ‘I don’t fit any of the categories [on the application],’ but if they’re willing to come sit in my class for an hour a week, they get the same benefits. It is all about commitment.”
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Even if students come away from NUFP not wanting to work in higher education, Douglas still considers that a success. Saving students years investing in a career that they don’t like opens up opportunity to decide what path is a better fit for them.
“Our students that leave here are so remarkable and they are going to these schools and are shining examples of what our profession is about,” Douglas said. “It opens the road for other students to follow them.”
When Douglas’ students begin looking at schools, he urges them to write him down as a reference and to connect with alumni from the program for more information on an institution. Douglas’ philosophy of “each one teach one, each one help one” rings true year after year, as past NUFP students lend a hand to recent graduates of the program beginning their job search.
“NUFP has laid a really good framework on how to set up my application. They set a pathway and keep me on track. It’s great having someone with the answers,” said Edward Mejia, Chico State student and program participator.