UDREAM Program Helps Lerner Students Succeed

UD Lerner UDream Peer Mentors Daniel Kuria and Johnkarlo Estrada

Like many first-year students, when Daniel Kuria arrived on campus at the University of Delaware in 2019, he searched for new friends and spaces to help him feel comfortable in an unfamiliar world. He was new to Delaware from Edison, New Jersey majoring in finance with a minor in business analytics at UD’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics. He soon discovered that Lerner College had student groups, academic programs and many other opportunities to support students in finding their home away from home.


Kuria found what he was looking for in Lerner’s UDREAM Program. UDREAM, which stands for “U” Develop Resources for Excellence in Academic Management, is a program that works with incoming freshmen or transfer students new to UD and serves as a buffer between high school and college. The program provides academic support for undergraduate students through academic coaching and peer mentoring. Students who have participated in UDREAM went on to achieve academic and career success.


While Kuria didn’t participate in UDREAM as a freshman, UDREAM’s Program Coordinator Stephen Roberts, still noticed that Kuria  was a stand out student based on his involvement in other programs.. Roberts recruited Kuria to become a peer mentor with UDREAM in his sophomore year.


“He [Roberts] was like ‘this is a place where you can learn and grow to be a better version of yourself, and I can really see you being a mentor for future prospective students’,” Kuria said. “I told him I would love to take on that leadership role.”


Now a junior, Kuria has been remarkable, Roberts said.


“I look for a well-rounded student that wants to give back and support fellow Blue Hens,” Roberts said. “Building a sense of community is vital for success at UD and peer mentors play a key role.”


Roberts oversees the UDREAM Program and helps students set long and short-term goals, manage their time more efficiently and develop organizational and study skills. The program also monitor students’ progress in their classes and steers them toward free individual tutoring services. Lastly, through UDREAM connections, exceptional students are given recommendations for internships and academic programs. Some are recruited to help acclimate the next group of new students to Lerner through the transition process. Roberts said UDREAM typically has 7-10 students act as peer mentors per academic year and each is paired with two or three mentees.


Kuria, a first generation college student whose parents immigrated from Kenya when he was a child, is a model student for presenting UDREAM to those new to UD. He has maintained a 3.7 GPA for three years and has been a part of several student organizations including the UD Chapter of the National Association of Black Accountants, a nonprofit membership association dedicated to bridging the opportunity gap for black professionals in the accounting, finance and related business professions; Alpha Kappa Psi, a co-ed business fraternity; the Blue Hen Investment Club, a student run investment club whose mission is to manage a multi-million dollar stock portfolio and outperform the S&P 500 annually; and UDREAM peer mentoring. He also helped start The Private Markets Club, a student club focused on investments.


In the summer of 2021, Kuria  was a financial services operations intern in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for Ernst and Young, one of the four largest accounting firms in the world. This summer he will head to Chicago, Illinois for an internship at Goldman Sachs, where he will be an asset management analyst.


“The University of Delaware is a large school with endless possibilities. You kind of feel trapped in a sense of what do I join? Where do I go? Am I really going to make it and get a full-time job and internships,” Kuria said. “All of these questions are really overwhelming and lingering in your head as a freshman. You want to do everything you can to be the best version of yourself, but it’s kind of hard to do that when you have so many other competitive peers who are here for the same goal.


“Joining a program like this gives you that opportunity to be able to make those connections, fulfill those relationships and plug you into the right sources, education wise, professional wise and connections wise,” Kuria continued.


Kuria’s father is a nurse and wanted him to be a doctor, but Kuria said he was drawn to business as a teenager when he started a photography business with his cousin. Since enrolling at Lerner, he knows he made the right choice to major in business instead of one of the sciences. He decided to put his best foot forward when Roberts approached him about being a peer mentor.


“The program really is something special that the University offers and I’m so glad to be a part of it,” Kuria said. “I wouldn’t have had the experiences and internships and all the applications that I have been through without UDREAM but also now I get to be that light and hold the baton for the incoming generation.”


Roberts also recruited Johnkarlo Estrada, a junior with a double major in finance and wealth management, to become a UDREAM peer mentor. His willingness to give back and support fellow students, coupled with his positive outlook and involvement on campus, made him an ideal candidate, Roberts said.


The opportunity to join UDREAM as a peer mentor piqued Estrada’s interest because it reminded him of his senior year in high school back in Morristown, New Jersey. Seniors were paired with incoming freshmen to help them navigate high school. UDREAM was the perfect fit.


“I like helping people,” Estrada said. “I’ve had a lot of mentors in my life, people I’ve looked up to, and have asked for help, and I think asking for help is something that’s very important.”


Estrada acknowledged that everyone isn’t comfortable asking for help, and that is one of the things he tries to keep in mind. He included the UDREAM students he mentors this semester in a group text, and checks on them frequently to see how they did on important tests and if they are acclimating well. They meet on Zoom and sometimes in Lerner Hall for team building exercises. He has shared insights from professors and classes he’s taken in the past, and other campus activities he’s participated in. They are his friends, he said.


Another secret to Estrada’s success in school and UDREAM is taking the very concepts he’s learned in Lerner classrooms and applying them to his everyday life. Estrada has made connections. He has an almost 3.5 GPA and he will be interning at BNP Paribas Bank in New York this summer. Last summer he interned for a credit card company, and they let him stay on part time during the school year as a remote worker. On the weekends he drives back to New Jersey to work as a caddy on a golf course, where he meets business executives.


Aside from UDREAM, Estrada is a part of a Private Markets Club, which he joined after connecting with another Lerner student.


“Seventy percent of being successful, they say, is connections; talking. So meeting more people with the same mindset as me is what I love to do,” Estrada said.


School has taught him to be more attentive to others and making sure that they are well taken care of. It wasn’t easy for him when he first arrived on campus.


“I haven’t always been comfortable talking to random people; new people, but I’m forced to talk to people, and that’s something that I learned.”


This skill has come in handy for Estrada. When a first year student confided in him that she was having a hard time finding a group of people to connect with; that she was stressed from school work, and felt like people were mean to her because she studied on Friday nights he did two things.


The first thing he did was let her know that she could hang with him and his group of friends, if she wanted. The second thing was to give her a piece of advice.


“I told her, who cares? She’s hustling,” Estrada said, “And I was telling her, ‘that’s good that you’re doing that. You just want to keep working.’ I helped her see the right in what she was doing.”


And that’s what UDREAM is all about.

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