$2.6 Million Gift Supports First-Generation Students At Texas A&M
Stephanie and Todd Routh of Austin, Texas have committed a $2.6 million gift to the Texas A&M Foundation to support first-generation students at Texas A&M University. Their endowment will create The Stephanie Duprie Routh ’93 and Todd Routh ’86 First Generation Program.
The couple’s gift will bolster efforts within Texas A&M’s Office for Student Success, which was established in 2019 with an emphasis on helping first-generation students successfully navigate collegiate life. First-generation students — those whose parents have not earned a bachelor’s degree — make up close to 25 percent of the undergraduate population at Texas A&M.
Tim Scott, Texas A&M associate provost for academic affairs and student success, said that first-generation students often report a lower sense of belonging on campus, which correlates with lower retention and graduation rates and a longer time to obtain their degree.
“To address this gap, we’re working to give these students the attention and resources they deserve, so their retention, graduation and time to degree mirrors that of any Texas A&M student,” Scott said.
Current efforts support “learning communities” for first-generation scholarship recipients. These communities link students with campus and peer mentors and other students with similar backgrounds, which Scott said is vital to ensuring first-generation student success. First-year programs already exist for first-generation students who come from families earning less than $40,000.
“Many students don’t receive such funding and may not have the opportunity to participate in a community. The Rouths’ generosity will allow us to serve those students as well,” Scott said. “It will also help us build out high-impact student employment opportunities on campus in a student’s second year, and potentially create learning communities for students’ junior and senior years.”
In addition to bolstering learning communities, the Rouths’ endowment will also provide funding to support the three existing full-time employees in the Office for Student Success, as well as the program’s facility — including a student lounge and designated study and mentor areas — and any other programs created for first-generation student success.
The Rouths said their past experiences opened their eyes to first-generation student needs and motivated them to make a difference. As active members of the Capital City A&M Club for the past 20 years, their involvement in the club’s scholarship application process broadened their perspectives to these needs. They said they have also personally assisted employees’ and friends’ children in navigating the college admissions process.
“Being able to help guide their journey has been a wonderful journey for us, as well,” Todd Routh said.
Stephanie Routh touched on the importance of mentoring first-generation college students once they are on campus.
“Two of three students I helped with the college application process were accepted but later dropped out because they couldn’t find their footing. They were seemingly swimming without a clear sense of direction in a sea of purpose-driven students,” she said. “It is important to provide a safe place for first-generation students to share concerns that may not be relevant to the rest of the college population in order to help minimize these anxieties and redirect actions if necessary.”
As successful Aggies — Stephanie Routh earned her degree in environmental design in 1993, and Todd Routh earned his finance degree in 1986 — the Rouths said they agree that everyone, no matter their background, should have an opportunity to pursue higher education.
“Education feeds the mind, makes you part of something bigger than yourself and creates a channel for each person to create change in the world. It is an equalizer,” Stephanie Routh said.
The Rouths not only hope to encourage student success with their gift, but they said they also wish to inspire their fellow Aggies and others to contribute to something much larger than Aggieland.
“Texas A&M not only teaches academics, but also life skills,” Stephanie Routh said. “First-generation students have drive and ambition. They can take what they learn back to their families, communities and careers, and share their education.”
The Office for Student Success
Texas A&M’s Office for Student Success was created in 2019 to retain more students, increase four- and six-year graduation rates and decrease disparities among incoming students. To learn more about the office’s efforts and goals, visit studentsuccess.tamu.edu.
Texas A&M Foundation
The Texas A&M Foundation is a nonprofit organization that aspires to be among the most trusted philanthropies in higher education. It builds a brighter future for Texas A&M University, one relationship at a time. To learn more, visit txamfoundation.com.
Lead by Example Campaign
Launched in 2015, Texas A&M University’s third comprehensive fundraising campaign, Lead by Example, is a joint effort between Texas A&M and its affiliate fundraising organizations: the Texas A&M Foundation, The Association of Former Students, the 12th Man Foundation and the George and Barbara Bush Foundation. With a goal of reaching $4 billion by 2020, it is the largest higher education campaign in Texas history and one of the largest conducted nationally by a public university. For more information, visit leadbyexample.tamu.edu.