Students discuss being dismissed and getting back to UB

Student Support Services offers workshop for students facing dismissal


Dominique Hickson received news her grandfather had had a seizure and was lying unresponsive in an intensive care unit in a Harlem hospital on May 25, 2014. Hickson was getting ready to see her grandfather on his deathbed when she received an email on her UB account.

The email stated that because of her academic standing she had lost her financial aid.

A second email came in.

Hickson then found out she had been academically dismissed from UB.

“I remember sitting there holding [my grandfather’s] hand with the little IV in it and I said to myself … ‘I am not going to disappoint you, not lying on your deathbed,’” Hickson said.

Hickson, a sophomore computer engineering major, told her story of academic dismissal in a workshop on Monday night hosted by Student Support Services (SSS). The workshop, which was titled ‘Bouncing Back from Dismissal,’ was Hickson’s idea as a way for students to learn from her mistakes.

“I wanted to give [students] a way to combat dismissal,” Hickson said “I wanted to share my story of how I got dismissed … and what I did to get back into UB.”

Student Support Services is a team at UB focused on giving students comprehensive academic support and is funded by the U.S. Department of Education to serve 275 students, according to Jennifer Morrison, director of SSS. Student Support Services has also applied for two additional programs – SSS-STEM and SSS-ESL – to start in September 2015 that will allow it to serve 260 additional students.

Students that wish to enroll in the program must meet certain requirements. To be eligible students must be enrolled at UB as undergraduates working on their first bachelor’s degree, be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and meet at least one of the following criteria: neither parent/guardian has earned a bachelor’s degree or meet the income eligibility guidelines or have a disability, according to its website.

Student Support Services is a resource for students to get help overcoming their reluctance to discuss their situations and to offer suggestions tailored to their needs, Morrison said.

“Some students think needing help is a sign they don’t belong at UB … [students] are embarrassed by their situation,” Morrison said. “SSS has helped hundreds of students achieve their goals at UB and after graduation.”

This workshop was the first one specifically focused on dismissal and the first to have dismissal in the actual title, according to Morrison. Morrison worked with Hickson late last week to reserve a room and make this workshop a reality.

“Dominique thought there are other students struggling and she wanted to help them … [she] had the idea to share her experiences,” Morrison said.

Hickson told the group of roughly 15 students in Capen Hall how she struggled at UB after transferring here from University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. She said after her first semester here she ended with a 1.6 GPA and was informed that she was on academic probation. Hickson knew that she needed to raise her GPA above a 2.0 or she would be dismissed.

“I think my real mistake was that I didn’t tell anyone,” Hickson said “I thought I was the only friend who was on academic probation … I kept it to myself.”

Hickson told students that after she left the hospital on May 25 she had to go home and tell her parents about her dismissal. She told them she had to go back to Buffalo and straighten it out. The next day Hickson was in Buffalo.

Hickson had a summer job lined up through the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) as a student assistant and was going to use the money from that to pay for the summer courses she needed to retake. Hickson contacted Morrison for support after getting dismissed and Morrison told her she was going to appeal the school’s decision to dismiss her.

“I was thinking how am I going to appeal my decision with a 1.1 GPA and three F’s on my transcript?” Hickson said “I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from achieving my dream of becoming a computer engineer.”

Hickson went on to complete her summer courses and her appeal passed, allowing her to be reinstated into UB.

Cletus Emokpae, a junior international trade and communication major, also spoke on Monday night about how he struggled at UB and ended up losing his financial aid because of academic dismissal.

“My GPA went down the drain … my parents were never worried,” Emokpae said. “I was like it happens, nobody is perfect.”

William Roman, a sophomore aerospace engineering major, also attended the workshop and although he said he cannot relate directly to the stories, he has friends that have troubles and this will help him calm them down.

“It is all about becoming more informed,” Roman said. “It is good to let them know this is not the end of the world.”

Hickson said this past year has been great for her and she has received a full time internship with M&T Bank on their innovation team. She said her internship and her troubles at UB were oddly connected.

“The day I start that job is the day last year that I found out that I had been dismissed,” Hickson said.

Cletus Emokpae was a staff photographer for The Spectrum last semester.

Charles W. Schaab is an assistant news editor and can be reached at