Five years ago, a group of faculty members at the University of California-Irvine decided to “out” themselves. At the large research university, where more than half of students are the first in their families to go to college, these faculty would proudly say: Us, too.
It was a simple gesture. But it carried a powerful message for those 14,000 undergrads at Irvine.
“It gives them role models, so they don’t suffer from imposter syndrome,” says Chancellor Howard Gillman, himself once a first-generation college student. “They know they belong here.”
That grassroots faculty effort grew into a comprehensive outreach and support program and became a model for all 10 campuses in the University of California system. Today, faculty wear T-shirts and buttons in the first weeks of fall to “out” themselves.
It’s that long-established culture of support that helps UC-Irvine place at the top of MONEY’s 2019 Best Colleges rankings.