George White, the director of the Office of Student Access and Success, recently announced the Passport to Success program, which launched on Oct. 5, 2018. This The program aims to equip first-generation college students with skills to succeed in their college careers and resources to pursue study abroad opportunities. (Hannah Kravatz/B&W Staff)

Passport to Success opens opportunities for first-generation, low-income students


The Office of International Affairs collaborated with the Office of Student Access and Success to kick off this year’s Passport to Success program on Oct. 5.

The program aims to benefit first-generation and low-income first-year students.

“The Passport to Success program is designed to provide exposure and support for students to understand all the various high-impact learning experiences that are available to help them beyond their classroom experience,” said George White, the director of the Office of Student Access and Success and co-director of the program.

White said the program last year when the Office of International Affairs observed that students from lower-income households were not taking advantage of study abroad and global experience opportunities nearly as much as higher income students.

In order to bridge that gap, the Office of International Affairs partnered with the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Equity to devise a solution.

This year, the Passport to Success program will be open to first-year, first-generation students with high financial need, Lehigh University Student Scholars Institute students, Rapidly Accelerated Research Experience students, and Posse Foundation students.

“Every two weeks the students will be meeting for lunch,” White said. “They will all have a trained Passport Guide who is either a staff member or graduate assistant, and they will work with the guide to develop a four-year learning plan using their Passport to Success planning book.”

Several staff and faculty members who were first-generation college students volunteered as passport guides.

Students in the Passport to Success program also complete a mentorship through the Mentor Collective, an online platform which supports mentor-mentee relationships. First-year students are paired with upperclassmen during the academic year in order to foster a better sense of community.

“The program really helps connect you with the resources and the people you need to know to get to where you want to be and to accomplish your goals,” said Lisa Tseng, ’21, a Gryphon for the first-generation themed housing community.

The Passport to Success program will focus on six high-impact learning experiences: study abroad and global experiences in the United States, community engagement and service learning, work experience and career readiness, internships, research opportunities and leadership experiences.

“For each of the six activities, we will go over all the resources on campus and have all the students plan,” said Katie Radande, the director of Study Abroad and co-director of the Passport to Success program.  “We will be talking about all the things you can do, how you can meet advisers, and (how to) identify grants.”

The program helps students obtain passports, asses career strengths and learn more about study abroad scholarships and research grants.

Rajan Jones, ’20, a Gryphon for the first-generation housing community, had a positive experience with the program.

“It made going abroad seem more tangible,” Jones said. “I didn’t have a lot of money or resources that I could tap into before the Passport program. Now, we have people who are actively providing us with resources and helping us go abroad.“

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