College wins federal grant for first-generation students


Students sit together for a discussion during a Humanities for Everybody, or H4E, class. Courtesy WMU

A college in the region has received a federal grant to help first-generation students through the humanities.

Western Michigan University said this month it received $100,000 from the National Endowment for Humanities for WMU’s Humanities for Everybody, or H4E, program.

Coupled with funding from other sources, the NEH Humanities Access matching grant will help H4E expand and create a bridge-year program for first-generation students transitioning to higher education.

The NEH grant will provide seed money for scholarships to the bridge-year program for Kalamazoo Promise-ineligible students and offset H4E’s costs for operation, orientation activities and hiring a coordinator and recruiter.

There are no age or citizenship requirements for the H4E bridge-year program, although the program is partly designed for those who are between their senior year in high school and freshman year in college.

It will begin in the fall semester of 2018.

Class details

H4E’s current academic year consists of four five-week sessions, but it will move to a 15-week semester after the bridge-year program is established. Classes will take place 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday evenings during the fall and spring semesters.

All of the courses include free tuition, books, snacks and bus tokens.

H4E classes, which are capped at 15 students each and held at an off-campus Open Doors classroom in Kalamazoo, at 811 S. Westnedge Ave., are aimed at members of the community who lack access to or the means for higher education.

“We encourage graduating seniors as well as students who have, for whatever reason, dropped out of college to apply to our program,” said Dini Metro-Roland, H4E director and a professor in the program.

“Moreover, five out of the 15 students in each class will be community participants similar to the participants we currently have. These members are typically older, with a good deal of life and work experience.”


The three-credit courses will fulfill WMU general education requirements or can be taken for no credit by community members.

“Students need not be admitted to WMU to participate in the program,” Metro-Roland said. “We feel that this will provide our students with more flexibility to pick the academic program and institution of their choice.

“Of course, there are built-in advantages to choosing to attend WMU, as we intend to provide our H4E alumni with additional support.”

That support includes academic assistance and help with their college or job applications, including references and letters of recommendation by H4E faculty.

Program organizers also intend to eventually add extracurricular activities, such as lectures, theater and concerts.

“We hope to build strong and lasting relationships," Metro-Roland said. "Our main mission has always been to awaken curiosity, wonder and a deeper engagement with the world for members of the community.”

Humanities for Everybody

H4E began in 2011 as a collaboration between the Center for the Humanities at WMU and the housing-related charity Open Doors.

The program provides a series of free humanities courses in the fields of literature, philosophy, history and cultural-political studies to residents of greater Kalamazoo. The classes are taught by experienced WMU faculty members.


The National Endowment for the Humanities, created in 1965, is a federal agency.

It supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy and other areas of the humanities by funding select peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. 

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