Published: April 6, 2022

A sense of community is key to higher graduation rates and other measures of academic success, participants in MASP say

When it was launched in 1993, the Miramontes Arts & Sciences Program—or MASP—aimed to retain students of color in biology through graduation. Soon, the program expanded to help first-generation and other historically excluded students from all disciplines.

The program works so well and has grown so much that in early 2022 it is moving out of its cramped and hard-to-find facility in the Porter Biosciences building into newly remodeled, larger and more visible digs in the Lucile Berkeley Buchanan Building, which has long housed the School of Education.

MASP students

At the top of the page: Blueprints of the new MASP space in the School of Education. Above: MASP provides traditionally underrepresented or first-generation students access to resources, enrichment opportunities and academic support and guidance.

Since 2016, MASP has doubled the number of students it serves and is projected to keep growing. The new space, which will span about 2,930 square feet, will be more noticeable to passers-by and will be 75% larger than the original space.

The space will occupy much of the Buchanan building’s first floor and will include a large community room, quiet study space, meeting rooms, faculty and staff offices, and a revamped computer and printing lab. The building will also house the Office of Undergraduate Education’s Student Academic Success Center—which also support first-generation and historically excluded students.

“As we continue charting forward and planning for MASP’s future, we are so excited for this new chapter and look forward to showing off the space at our grand opening celebration” next spring, a MASP newsletter recently noted.

The program’s success and its scheduled move are due in no small part to the help of donors.

Donors who are also CU Boulder alumni made a $1 million gift in September 2020. In supporting MASP, these donors are not alone. Since MASP’s inception, 254 individual donors have made 593 gifts totaling $2.6 million. Since September 2020 alone, donors have given a total of $1.3 million. The College of Arts and Sciences’ Dean’s Advisory Board is also heavily invested in the program.

The enthusiastic support reflects the program’s striking success, observers say.

The six-year graduation rate for full-time first-year students entering CU Boulder in 2014 was 72%. The rate for students of color in the same cohort was 66%, and for first-generation students, the rate was 65%.

But students in MASP do better, in recent years showing six-year graduation rates of 75% to 85%.

Our students are so bright and talented; having a supportive academic community helps them to reach their potential.”

These results reflect MASP’s mission, which is to provide a supportive environment for students with an emphasis on matriculation, retention and postgraduate success.

The program focuses on two main goals: providing students with a “sense of belonging” through the support of an inclusive academic community on campus, and ensuring they are aware of and are able to take advantage of opportunities to enhance their education outside the classroom, such as internships, education abroad and undergraduate research opportunities.

Celeste Montoya, associate professor of women and gender studies and director of MASP, expressed gratitude for the support and the new space.

“Our students are so bright and talented; having a supportive academic community helps them to reach their potential,” Montoya said, adding:

“We’re so grateful for this investment in their future and the opportunity it provides us to reach even more students.”