For the nearly 3,000 students it serves, CSP is more than a learning community; it is also a space where they can be their full, authentic selves and receive the individualized support needed to thrive socially and personally.
“Just having that community to support you, to be your backbone, has been helpful,” says Madeline Zerial, a third-year neuroscience student. “Here we have similar backgrounds whereas other places at U-M, you might be the only one who is from a low-income background or a person of color. There are people here who support and care for you.”
For Zerial, coming to U-M from an under-resourced high school in Redford, Michigan, was intimidating. Initially, she felt unprepared academically, but she believes CSP helped her overcome her imposter syndrome. She is now planning to attend dental school after graduation.
“From my first day of orientation, my advisors and professors in CSP have always looked out for me. I look to them for personal and academic guidance,” says Zerial. “They care in a different way and they understand where you’re coming from. They’re more understanding if you have learning gaps, and they know students come from different backgrounds.”
Today, 75 percent of CSP scholars are LSA students and 72 percent are from Michigan. While progress has been made in the presence of students from underrepresented communities at U-M, there is still a long way to go. Part of CSP’s mission is to advocate for educational and social transformation.
Nearly 40 years since its founding, CSP continues to transform undergraduate education for students. Through its various offerings and initiatives, such as reducing student loan debt, the program provides a space, a support network, and a sense of familiarity for hundreds of students each year. The program’s proactive efforts to build an equitable and inclusive community ensure these scholars can thrive while here and beyond.
“As long as students are marginalized, there will be a need for programs like CSP,” says Trotter.
Photo courtesy of the Comprehensive Studies Program. Videos by Natalie Condon.
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