In an email on Monday to the campus community, President Clayton Rose announced a $5 million donation from Reed Hastings ’83, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, towards a new program that will support low-income students, first-generation students and students traditionally underrepresented on college campuses. The program, THRIVE, coincides with the College’s other ongoing efforts to promote diversity and inclusion.
THRIVE will offer students from underserved backgrounds academic and skill-building support in order to excel at Bowdoin.
“Our own work here and lots of studies tell us very clearly that there is a need and an opportunity for those students who are first-generation and come from, in many cases, low income backgrounds and are underrepresented on college campuses to enhance their experience,” said President Clayton Rose.
Recently, Bowdoin has experienced a slow rise in the number of students of color, low income students and first-generation students. The current first year class is the most racially and socioeconomically diverse class at Bowdoin.
“This is a program that will really benefit the students who are involved but I think it would benefit the College more broadly, because I think it demonstrates our real commitment to the diversity of students we are admitting,” said Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Chuck Dorn.
The program is also part of an effort to improve graduation rates, specifically among underserved students.
As such, Rose described THRIVE as “two-fold” and both “quantitative and qualitative,” meeting students’ needs and increasing graduation rates.
According to Dorn who has been developing the program, a group of students admitted into the class of 2022 will be the first invited to apply.
Twelve students will be selected as the THRIVE cohort. These students will come to campus before the beginning of the semester for a six-week summer academic enrichment program where they will study quantitative reasoning and college level reading, writing and rhetoric while becoming acquainted with the College, the community and the resources available to them.
Through their first year, students will be introduced to further resources and opportunities on campus. This will continue into their sophomore year where new areas such as choosing a major and studying off-campus will be covered. As juniors and seniors, the students will serve as mentors to first-year and sophomore students.
According to Dorn, components of the program, such as the summer enrichment program and the cohort groups, have been in the works for the past decade. But only in the past year or so when the prospect of identifying external funding became a reality, through Hastings’s prospective donation, did the pieces come together.
“Reed has been terrific,” said Dorn. “He is not writing a check and walking away, he is deeply involved with these issues in his own work outside of Bowdoin and wants to be deeply involved with these issues at Bowdoin.”
In January 2016, Hastings created the Hastings Fund, a $100 million education fund. The fund launched with a $1.5 million investment in the Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley and UNCF scholarship funds, helping students of color receive a college education.
Hastings will be on the THRIVE advisory board along with four distinguished educators: Ronald C. Brady ’89, P’19, director of Democracy Prep Public Schools in Camden, New Jersey; Geoffrey Canada ’74, H’07, president of the Harlem Children’s Zone in New York City; Maggie L. O’Sullivan ’92, a public school teacher, founding leader at Rainier Prep in Seattle and Laura W. Perna, James S. Riepe professor and executive director of the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania. The board will advise and support leaders of the program and come to campus annually to speak with THRIVE students.
The program is still in planning stages, but Dorn is beginning to meet with faculty and staff across campus who will lend their expertise to its development.
“His gift is going to make it possible for us to put together a best-in-class program which is worthy of Bowdoin and to make real progress, so it’s incredibly exciting and we’re incredibly grateful,” said Rose.
Dorn hopes that the program will encourage students to give back to the greater community.
“We hope to impart upon the students the importance of thinking about higher education as a way to promote the Common Good and what can students not only take from this place but what can they give back to the immediate Bowdoin community—or the Brunswick community—or the Midcoast region,” said Dorn.