Utah Valley University expands campaign for first-generation students 

Reading Time: 2 minutes President Tuminez pledged to raise 15 million by 2023. She announced she had reached that goal.

Graphic with three students in graduation caps.

Graphic by Kristan Whitney.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Upon President Astrid S. Tuminez’s arrival at UVU five years ago, she initiated a fundraising drive with the aim of securing $15 million by 2023. This funding was intended to bolster scholarships and initiatives for first-generation students, such as UVU’s First-Generation Completion Initiative. The university is thrilled to announce that it has successfully achieved this ambitious target.  

According to Kyle Reyes, vice president of institutional advancement and CEO of the UVU Foundation, the first-generation campaign received a significant lift when four donors stepped forward. Each donor contributed $1 million: Blake and Sandy Modersitzki, Brian and Louise Murphy, Dan and Peggy Campbell, and a fourth donor who chose to remain anonymous. While the target has been met, Reyes said that “UVU will continue raising funds for first-generation students and welcomes donations from alumni and the community.”  

Nearly one-third of UVU students (9,933 this year) are first-generation. Over the past five years, UVU has awarded diplomas or certificates to 17,303 first-generation students. 

“Today, UVU salutes our first-gen students — past and present— who have become pioneers in their families by deciding to gain a college education,” President Tuminez said. “I am inspired by them and love to hear their stories of pure grit, determination, and courage.” 

President Tuminez went on to tell a story about Holli Saperstein. Thirty years ago, Holli Saperstein, a single mother with a GED and four young children, drove past Utah Valley State College (now UVU) and decided she wanted a better future for her family.  

Determined to return to school, she sold her living room furniture to pay for her first semester at UVSC. Despite the challenges, Saperstein persisted, eventually earning a Presidential Scholarship and completing her associate’s degree in less than three years. College transformed her life, leading to a bachelor’s degree, an MBA, and a successful career with Fortune 500 companies and the CDC.  

Saperstein — now the executive director of a nonprofit organization in Wilmington, North Carolina, and a working actress — has inspired her family members to pursue higher education, resulting in a significant positive change in their trajectory as a family. 

To learn more about Utah Valley University’s first-generation students, you can visit their website, which includes resources that students might need during their time at UVU. 

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