Miracle Nwachukwu has felt the impact of the University of Michigan’s commitment to mentorship since day one. Well, before day one, actually.

Even though the University of Michigan had long been her dream school, Miracle Nwachukwu says she almost didn’t apply. The youngest of three children born before her parents immigrated from Nigeria to the United States, Miracle notes that both of her older brothers had applied to Michigan. But neither was accepted.

“I did not think that I would be the one to break that cycle!” says Miracle.

It was October of her senior year of high school and, because of her brother’s track record with Michigan, Miracle was still undecided about whether it’d be worth it for her to apply. They’re both doing well at other universities, but Ann Arbor still called to her. So she attended a daylong admissions event that would allow her to spend the day on campus with a current U-M student, and that one day in October changed the course of her life. Miracle was paired with Lauryn, a first-year student who’d grown up in Southfield, a neighboring Detroit suburb, and had a similar background. Lauryn encouraged Miracle to envision herself at Michigan, and even helped her edit her admissions essays. To this day, they keep in touch.

“Truth be told, if I hadn’t gone to that event and met Lauryn, I probably wouldn’t be here at Michigan. She was the one who finally convinced me to apply.” said Miracle.

Now an LSA sophomore majoring in Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience (BCN), with a minor in AfroAmerican and African studies, Miracle has continued to experience the positive outcomes of meaningful mentoring and advising in many of its forms in LSA.

Miracle kicked off her Michigan journey early when she was admitted to the Comprehensive Studies Program’s (CSP) Summer Bridge Scholars Program (Bridge). The program has, for 45 years, improved success outcomes for incoming first-year students by welcoming them onto campus for an intensive residential summer program prior to the beginning of the fall semester.

“I loved everything about the experience. CSP introduced me to all of my friends, showed me around campus, and gave me a feel for college before my first official semester,” noted Miracle.

Bridge eases the transition from high school to college through credit-earning academic courses in writing and math, academic coaching, connections to U-M faculty, and community-building events designed to foster an inclusive and supportive peer network. CSP is distinguished for its thoughtfully developed peer and faculty mentoring components. Peer mentors, especially those close in age to their mentees and with similar backgrounds and shared experiences, can help make it easier for incoming students to navigate a large university like U-M.

Miracle (left) ice skating at U-M's Yost Ice Arena during a pre-pandemic West Quad bonding event, with Berry Matthews and Ambar Amoros-Gomez.

 

It’s hard to overstate the value of mentorship. Mentoring relationships, both long- and short-term, can boost an undergraduate’s self confidence, encourage academic exploration, and provide practical guidance on choosing courses, connecting with professors, finding resources, and so much more.

Thanks to such support, Miracle is well on her way along her pre-med path to becoming a psychiatrist. One of Miracle’s career goals is to establish a nonprofit that makes one-on-one mental health care affordable and accessible to minorities and people in lower income neighborhoods. Miracle joined the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP) this fall to gain practical research experience in her future field, connect with post-doc research mentors, and to build valuable networks that will help advance her studies.

“UROP was one of the programs that drew me to Michigan. I actually wrote about my interest in the program in the ‘Why Michigan’ section of my college application,” noted Miracle. “The experience has surpassed my expectations. Being a part of UROP enables me to take knowledge acquired in the classroom and apply it to the real world through research.”

Miracle is working with a researcher in the University of Michigan Department of Psychiatry Neuropsychology Program at Michigan Medicine. Her project focuses on a timely topic, determining whether tele-neuropsychology is as effective and accurate as face-to-face interaction in terms of psychiatric diagnoses.

“My mentor, Amanda, has been incredibly supportive from the beginning,” she said. “The goal of this project is to discover how we can make patient interactions more beneficial for the doctor and the patient. With COVID-19 changing the nature of the world, this is a very important aspect of medicine.”

Through programs like CSP and UROP, LSA seeks to create equity and offer access to critical enhanced learning experiences where students can discover different aspects of their fields and make connections that advance their studies further through internships and additional research opportunities.

For the many students who lack the personal financial resources, generational knowledge of the American college process, or family business contacts that can help others succeed, continued support for these initiatives is crucial.

“My parents were born and raised in Umuaka, Imo State, Nigeria. One of the main reasons they moved to the United States was so that my brothers and I could have access to better education,” said Miracle. “But with my two brothers also in college, I may have not been able to attend the University of Michigan without the scholarships I’ve received. And, without things like Summer Bridge and UROP, I may not have been able to thrive once I was here. I am forever grateful for the support.”