New name for center dedicated to helping vulnerable students succeed - University of Houston
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July 21, 2022

The Urban Experience Program may be taking on a new name, but its mission will stay the same: helping traditionally underserved students on their path to graduation at the University of Houston.

Now called the Center for Student Empowerment, it will continue to focus on helping any and all students with financial and academic challenges. But the new name, said Director Raven Jones, better reflects the mission for the Center.

“Acknowledging in empowerment in our name makes our core work more visible to our stakeholders, including our UH family, prospective students and educational and industry partners in the Houston community,” Jones said.

Originally founded in 1994 as a five-year pilot program, the original plan for the Urban Experience Program was to recruit, retain and propel Black and Latino students towards a degree. It started off by helping just 50 students, but it has now expanded to more than 600 and a more diverse student population.

“The Center for Student Empowerment is about connecting students to the many academic, social, and financial resources available to them at the University of Houston,” said Dr. Daniel Maxwell, interim vice president for student affairs and enrollment services. “It is a place on campus where students can connect and build their sense of belonging, get support in creating a holistic plan for success, engage in several skill building and social programs, and build some lasting friendships.”

It focuses on supporting students with scholarship resources, student internships, and enhanced campus services, but also now offers help with grants, mentoring, off-campus college work study opportunities, volunteer opportunities, and financial empowerment seminars.

It has a robust line up of pillar programs, which includes:

  • The Diamond Family Scholars Program, which supports students who have experienced time in foster care;
  • The Black Excellence Scholars Training Program, which supports Black students across all majors;
  • DREAM Scholars, which expands opportunities for DACA and undocumented students;
  • And its Financial Empowerment Series, which helps teach students and the UH community about resources and ways to be fiscally responsible.

The goal, Jones said, is to offer extra support to students so they can compete with their peers who did not start with the same hurdles.

“In many respects, this formal change reflects what’s long been a true value — empowerment — in our office and in our service to students,” Jones said.

Students must apply to the Center for Student Empowerment, and once accepted students meet with its staff to develop a success action plan. They then attend academic, financial, career or civic engagement events throughout the semester to help guide them on their UH journey.

Some of the benefits to joining the Center for Student Empowerment include:

  • Personalized support services and assistance.
  • One-on-one mentoring.
  • Access to the numerous scholarships offered through the Center.
  • And leadership opportunities at UH.

The Center for Student Empowerment is located on the third floor of the Student Services building in Room 302; you can contact the staff at 713-743-6032 or via email at You may also find additional information on the Center’s website at