Skip to Main Content
Make a Difference Giving to Michigan State University

Marathon Invests in Student Success

ESSA graduates experience more than 1,000 hours of engagement related to their major, are introduced to a myriad of career opportunities, and graduate career-ready.

A successful graduate poses with her father

Michigan State University and its three primary STEM colleges are making strides to support and retain underrepresented student populations to ensure they leave MSU career-ready. The Engineering and Science Success Academy (ESSA) is a program offered to incoming freshmen who come from at-risk backgrounds and want to pursue degrees in the colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Engineering or Natural Science.

To strengthen ESSA and the opportunities offered to participating students, Marathon Petroleum Corporation recently renewed its support of the program with a commitment of $150,000  over the next three years. Marathon Petroleum’s philanthropic vision is centered on strengthening communities. The company has a strong commitment to education, and particularly to ensuring those from socially or economically disadvantaged backgrounds have opportunities to succeed. The company has supported the ESSA program at the same level for the past three years.

“We have long recognized that employees from a wide variety of backgrounds make us a much stronger company,” said Buffy Day, Marathon Petroleum’s Vice President of Talent Development and Organizational Capability, whose responsibilities include the company’s recruiting activities. “When we hire skilled college graduates who bring us their unique perspectives, it helps us keep our edge in innovation and hones our competitiveness. Michigan State’s Engineering and Science Success Academy gives students of all backgrounds an opportunity to live up to their tremendous potential, and gives our company and other STEM-focused companies the opportunity to gain from these students’ talent and drive.”

ESSA students gather on an official visit to Cedar Point

Students who meet the qualifications are able to apply to ESSA and the program currently has a capacity of 60 students. The program lasts for two years and its hallmark is rigorous engagement with academic advisors, career placement staff, faculty and each other, ensuring students experience an open and comfortable learning environment. It brings structure and guidance to students who may need added support adjusting to a more demanding schedule. Once students are enrolled in the program, all components are mandatory, including academic advising and the summer bridge program which is a four-week, pre-freshman intensive program. At the end of their two years in ESSA, students have more than 1,000 hours of engagement related to their major.

Since its creation 12 years ago, ESSA has become a critical tool for student success. In 2018, 84 percent of ESSA students were able to improve their math placement exam results at the completion of the summer bridge program. Additionally, the six-year STEM graduation rate is 60 percent for ESSA students, and only 30.8 percent for students in the same target demographics who do not participate in the program. ESSA students may also have better career placement success post-graduation, as they are introduced to a myriad of career opportunities through the program.

In addition to the partnership with Marathon Petroleum, funding for the program has also been provided by ArcelorMittal, BP, Eli Lilly, Ford, P&G, PPG and ZF.