The University of South Florida today announced a $1.2 million gift from Andrew and Eileen Hafer to benefit UMatter, an innovative, inclusive postsecondary education program in the USF College of Education created to provide young people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to experience higher education and campus life.
The gift, made to the USF Foundation, will name the program after the donors and help fund its operations and year-round initiatives for participating students.
“The University of South Florida is proud to host the Eileen Hoffman Hafer UMatter Program and to provide opportunities for students with intellectual disabilities to excel in a university setting,” USF President Rhea Law said. “We are incredibly grateful to Andrew and Eileen Hafer for their generous support of this program and the students who will benefit from this life-changing experience.”
Hosted at the USF St. Petersburg campus and led by a team out of the College of Education, the program provides young people with intellectual disabilities learning and social skills, along with career training to assist them with becoming competitively employed and living independently. With support from professional staff and mentors, program participants navigate the transition from high school to college while acquiring skills in socialization, independent living and professional training.
“We couldn’t be happier to be part of the USF UMatter program as it pioneers new strides in inclusivity,” said Eileen Hafer. “At its core, UMatter is relational. It helps to remove obstacles that allow division based on human differences. I believe this program promotes a perspective and empathy for all those involved and strengthens the diversity of our USF community overall.”
UMatter was launched last year through a $900,000 grant awarded by the Florida Center for Students with Unique Abilities. The program welcomed its inaugural class of students to the USF St. Petersburg campus in August. The Hafers’ gift will allow it to expand, through the College of Education, to all three of USF’s campuses.
“The Eileen Hoffman Hafer UMatter Program will provide its students a chance at a full, independent life,” said USF Foundation CEO Jay Stroman. “We are thankful for Andy and Eileen’s generosity and foresight in making this gift in support of such an important program.”
The gift will also fund the Hafer Family Endowed Professorship for the program, an appointment created to provide ongoing support and mentorship to participants.
“The core focus of the Eileen Hoffman Hafer UMatter Program aligns perfectly with the College of Education’s mission of promoting equity, social justice and improved outcomes for all students, especially those who are excluded or historically underserved. We look forward to celebrating future successes of the program and its students,” said R. Anthony Rolle, dean of the College of Education.