“Why bring students here if you’re not going to help them be successful?” asks Wayne Jackson.

Jackson’s Multicultural Academic and Support Services (MASS) team serves as a student’s eyes and ears, and as a mentor, collaborator and friend. And in this case, multicultural truly means representing all cultures, including first-generation college students.

There are approximately 11,000 UCF students who are the first in their families to go to college. “Some students almost come in blindfolded. They don’t know where to look,” says Jackson.

Jackson’s team makes the complex simple.

“We try to do two things really well: Help students stay in school and prep them for life after school. Life after school is either graduate school or their career,” he says.

When you’re helping thousands of students, one at a time, there’s no shortage of success stories. Recent MASS achievements include:

Summer internships, like the last two MASS helped secure: One student will study medicine at Duke University Medical Center and another will study homelessness at Michigan State University before returning to UCF in the fall.

Lunch and Learn, a program that encourages students to invite a faculty member to lunch. Getting to know faculty members builds confidence, helps students network, gives them an ally when recommendation letters are needed and may give them the inside mtrack on job opportunities. More than 100 students participated in the program in its first year.

“Life is all about relationships,” says Jackson.

Jackson’s job is also to meet as many employers as possible. He has created a Community Advisory Board with local heavyweights such as Target, The Boeing Company, Walt Disney World, Orlando Magic, State Farm and Orange County Government. Employers assist students with internships, scholarships, a speaker series, relationship building, communication and leadership skills.

“I want students to look back years from now and say that going to UCF was one of the best decisions they ever made.” ✦