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UC Celebrates the First Graduates of the Gen-1 Theme House

The first graduate this April is completing two bachelor’s degrees and will continue working on her master’s degree.

Date: 4/22/2013 7:30:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
A University of Cincinnati living and learning community to support students at the highest risk for dropping out of college is celebrating its first graduates in 2013.
Gen-1 Theme House
Gen-1 Theme House


N’deye Ba will march in UC’s 2 p.m. Commencement Ceremony on April 27, and Obye Davis and Tracy Steagall will complete their degree programs over the summer.  All three students began their UC experience by moving into the UC Gen-1 Theme House for first-generation, Pell-eligible students.

The Gen-1 Theme House opened in 2008 to provide a 24/7 structured living and learning environment for a student population that’s most at risk for dropping out of college. The house, under the direction of the UC College of Education, Criminal Justice, and Human Services’ (CECH) Partner for Achieving School Success (PASS) Center, also provides intensive tutoring and mentoring support.

Bob Suess, project director for the Gen-1 Theme House, says the house has served more than 100 students since it opened in 2008. He adds that 85 of those students are still active in the program and are still enrolled at UC.

N’deye Ba
N’deye (Na, prounounced “Nay”) Ba

The house’s first Commencement success story, N’deye (Na, prounounced “Nay”) Ba, is graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in political science and a bachelor’s degree in international affairs. She also has begun work on her master’s degree in political science. Ba moved into the Gen-1 Theme House when she began her freshman year at UC in 2009.

Originally from Senegal, Africa, Ba says her parents first moved to the United States to find opportunity, while she and her siblings remained with her grandparents in Africa. She moved to Cincinnati when she was 10 years old, and says she learned English while attending Cincinnati Public Schools (her first languages are French and Wolof).

Ba says that toward the end of her senior year at Withrow University High School, she discovered that she qualified for UC’s Cincinnati Pride grant, which, in conjunction with federal, state and institutional aid, covers the cost of tuition for graduates of Cincinnati Public Schools who meet certain eligibility requirements. She also was aware that the Gen-1 Theme House would be housing some of her friends from high school, so she thought it would be an ideal way to adjust to college. “I had no idea what I was doing when I first got here, but the step-by-step process developed by the Gen-1 House helped me find who to talk with and where I needed to go,” says Ba. “I even liked the curfew!”

Judy Mause, program coordinator for the Gen-1 Theme House, says that in addition to supporting students academically, the Gen-1 Theme House also encourages them to take advantage of opportunities for networking, career development and leadership on-campus.

Ba seized those opportunities. She worked as student ambassador for UC’s Office of Admissions as well as a ROAR Campus Tour Guide for Admissions. She was a member of the Political Science Student Association and had served on the executive board of the UC African Students Association. Ba also is a member of the Lambda Society, an honorary for the advancement of minority women, and was invited into the Sigma Phi Women’s Honorary.
N’deye Ba



She also dove into gaining real-world experience in her major, participating in a leadership internship experience with the Washington Center during her junior year at UC. “It was an internship with the International Association of Women Judges, and it was amazing,” says Ba. “I got to put to work the policies that I had read about in class, and I met women from all over the world.”

Ba also took part in a spring break trip to India last month, as part of a service-learning course that had students developing business models for non-governmental organizations that rehabilitate women and girls rescued from the sex trade there. She says the Gen-1 Theme House helped support her costs for the trip, which included getting rounds of immunizations. She says she eventually wants to lead a nongovernmental organization.

“I’ve really loved my UC experience. I’ve been able to do things that I never imagined, and I feel that I have really grown into the person that I can be proud of and that my family, especially my dad, can be proud of,” says Ba. “Knowing that my family’s sacrifice didn’t go to waste – this has been the most rewarding thing for me.” Ba’s family will attend the Commencement Ceremony.

Ba adds that as she thinks of future first-generation students entering college, she says they should feel proud that they are changing their family’s history. “I never would have been able to experience what I have accomplished if I hadn’t gone to college. Don’t be afraid to keep an open mind and try new things.”

“Na is an inspirational young woman who can be very proud of all she has achieved,” says Mause. “She made excellent use of the supports and services of the Gen-1 Theme House and program throughout her four years as an undergraduate. Na embraced her university experience and is an exceptional representative for both the Gen-1 program and UC.”

As she continues working on her master’s degree, Ba will serve as the Resident Graduate Advisor (RGA) for the Gen-1 Theme House during the 2013-14 academic year.

Suess says the house has achieved a minimum 90 percent retention rate for each freshman cohort, along with an average freshman GPA between 2.8-2.9.

“Over the past 5 years, Gen-1 has expanded and evolved from a residential house for 24 freshmen to next year’s projection of 30 freshmen and 20 sophomores living in two houses, along with 24 juniors and seniors forming a living/learning community in a neighboring house, and approximately 50 students participating in the non-residential Gen-1 program,” says Suess.

Read More About UC’s Gen-1 Theme House

Summer Celebrations: Two More Gen-1 Students Achieve Their Degrees

Click here for information on supporting the Gen-1 Theme House

University of Cincinnati to Award More Than 6,360 Degrees