The students involved with Rider’s Multicultural Student Leadership Institute (MSLI) have benefited from a new level of support this semester thanks to a $25,000 grant from a longtime supporter of the University, the Roma Bank Community Foundation. The grant has provided funding that allows Rider to support more MSLI students and bolster their experiences through the program.

MSLI supports first-year and transfer students from diverse backgrounds as they navigate their initial foray into the college experience. Through guided discussions, interactive workshops and other activities, MSLI students obtain practical leadership experience and professional development strategies that prepare them for success at Rider and in their careers.

“We’re extremely grateful to provide these young people with the support that gives them an edge on their college experience and beyond,” says Dr. Pamela Pruitt, the director of Rider’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion. “We find the students who take advantage of this program to be more engaged and happier and ultimately more successful.”

The Institute began operating in the 2007 academic year. Over the past 11 years, a great number of students have benefited from its services. The program unfolds in three phases. First-year students take part in the MSLI Summer Bridge Week, which teaches students the fundamentals of leadership, team building, goal setting and personal management. Participants are then encouraged to apply what they learn through campus-based leadership programs and organizations, such as the Emerging Leaders Program, the Leadership Development Program and other opportunities.

In the final phase, the student becomes the teacher. Those who have finished the second phase are encouraged to become peer leaders to the next class of MSLI students and to also become engaged as MSLI PALS (Partners Assisting in Learning for Students) by serving in in the community as mentors to the National Junior Tennis and Learning of Trenton (NJTLT) program and to various Rider student groups.

“The Multicultural Student Leadership Institute changed my life," says first-year student Danielle Jackson. "This experience taught me that my race does not consume who I am as an individual; it is not my only identifiable trait. It's these nuggets of knowledge that I've gathered since Bridge Week that have continually helped me in shaping a perspective of myself.”

The increased support for MSLI comes at a time when Rider is enrolling its most diverse classes ever. Last year’s first-year class consisted of 45% underrepresented racial minorities, with more than a quarter of the class being the first in their family to attend college. Similar trends continued with the Class of 2022.

“As our campus community continues to grow more diverse, we have to be proactive and have the programs and opportunities that are going to help our students succeed," Pruitt says. "We are incredibly grateful for Roma Bank's support in helping Rider ensure we're doing everything possible to make those resources are available.”