Job: Director, Early Identification Program
Since 1987, Mason’s Early Identification Program (EIP) has been a valuable resource for college-bound, first-generation students throughout Northern Virginia, providing academic enrichment, personal development, SAT test preparation, seminars, and coaching sessions. As the director of the program, Khaseem Davis works to ensure students have the tools they need to be successful—even in a pandemic.
Unlikely Beginnings: The Early Identification Program is not something that Khaseem Davis had access to growing up. Davis grew up in the Queensbridge Housing Projects in New York City, and his upbringing gave him a heightened awareness of just how beneficial such a program could be. “I remember thinking throughout the interview process—what if I had an EIP growing up,” Davis says. “What if my friends had a program like this and access to mentors?” The opportunity to help students in need drew Davis to the program in 2007. “When I learned of all the resources EIP offered and the impact it was having on the lives of diverse students, I said ‘This is where I belong!’”
Feeling the Impact: Seeing the program’s impact on students is Davis’s favorite part of his job. “We are able to change the life circumstances of these young men and women because of Mason,” Davis says. “Talk about success stories—we are full of them, and Mason has been the common thread in their lives.” EIP alumni have found success in a variety of fields. They’ve become immigration attorneys, PhD students, and even Mason professors, as Afra Saeed Ahmad, BA Psychology ’08, MA ’08, PhD ’16, did. “To watch students grow up and mature into scholars is very fulfilling.”
Challenges: Still, Davis’s job is far from a walk in the park. The COVID-19 pandemic had a particularly harsh effect on his students. “About 25 percent of our students did not have access to a reliable device to engage in distance learning,” Davis says. “And many were nervous about learning online.” The EIP team was undeterred. “We sprang into action and worked with our public-school partners to secure devices for students. We were able to get more than 140 students connected to engage in distance learning this past summer for our Summer Academy.”
For the Long Haul: EIP is vital to the region, something community members tell Davis all the time. “When they learn of the work we do with students throughout Northern Virginia, their faces light up with pride,” he says. In addition to its partners in public schools, EIP relies on community and corporate partners such as Northrop Grumman and Bank of America. Because of this support, Davis and his team will be helping students in need for years to come.
This profile originally ran in the Fall 2020 Mason Spirit magazine.