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University of Central Missouri
Administration 302
Warrensburg, MO 64093
Phone: 660-543-4640
Fax: 660-543-4943


TRIO Programs at UCM Celebrate 30th Anniversary

Contact: Jeff Murphy
WARRENSBURG, MO (Feb. 25, 2009) – When 22-year-old Plattsburg resident Steve Robb decided to leave the construction and demolition industry to prepare for a new career, he knew he may need help brushing up on his math, writing, and computer literacy skills. His solution: take advantage of UCMs Student Support Services (SSS) program.

More Than 4,500 Students Have Benefited

Robb is one of more than 4,500 students who have benefited from the program, which is being celebrated at UCM this week. It is one of two TRIO programs housed in the Department of Academic Enrichment that will be recognized during a special open house from 2-4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27 in Humphreys Building, Room 115. The other TRIO offering is the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program, known on campus as the McNair Scholars Program.

“The purpose is to celebrate our successes and our students’ successes,” said Mary Alice Lyon, director of the SSS program at UCM, in talking about the open house.

Although Lyon now works part-time for the university, having retired from her full-time position, she has been instrumental in TRIO programs since their inception at Central Missouri. In fact, in 1978 she collaborated with David DeFrain, then chair of the Educational Development Center, and Kathel Jacquith, a former SSS counselor, to write the first grant proposal which made it possible to begin Student Support Services.“TRIO was established nationally under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as part of President Lyndon Johnson’s ‘War on Poverty,’” Lyon said. The same legislation also provided the student financial assistance program.

Program Began in 1978

The university has successfully secured federal grants for SSS since its inception in 1978, and for the McNair Scholars Program since its establishment in 1991.

“There are about 900 Student Support Services programs across the nation and about 200 McNair programs. Between the two TRIO programs at UCM, we have received more than $9.2 million through the U.S. Department of Education,” Lyon said, stressing that these competitive grant funds are made possible by taxpayers.

The purpose of TRIO-Student Support Services is to provide disadvantaged students with skills they need to succeed in college and go on to earn a bachelor’s degree. To be eligible for SSS free courses, tutoring, advisement and computer access, an individual must be either a low-income or first-generation college student or be a student with disabilities.

The McNair Scholars Program, which is designed to help prepare individuals for doctoral study, has served more than 425 students since its inception. Of those individuals, 340 have earned bachelor’s degrees, 146 have completed master’s degrees, and 32 have earned doctorates with many others currently in graduate programs. To be eligible, a student has to be a first-generation and low-income college student, or an ethnic minority underrepresented in graduate study.

Students selected for the McNair program have the opportunity to work with faculty mentors, get involved in research, compete for summer research internships, and attend seminars that will help them learn how to succeed in graduate study. According to McNair Director Margaret Shull, many of those students who have completed the UCM program have gone on to enjoy careers in higher education, clinical and social psychology, chemistry, pharmacology, law, medicine, and more. “In fact,” Shull added, “several of them have fulfilled a secondary goal of McNair – that of returning to higher education to teach – and are now part of UCM’s faculty”

Barbara Rhodes, educational advisor for SSS, said many students enrolled in TRIO programs have tremendous obstacles to overcome when they enter the university setting. Program staff work with them to establish academic goals that will enable them to earn a college dipoloma.

“We’re teaching these students to become scholars and to think of themselves in different ways,” Rhodes said. “We really are challenging them to make significant changes in their academic behaviors.”

Lyon pointed out that nationally less than 10 percent of the students who meet SSS eligibility criteria graduate without assistance. With TRIO assistance, however, 36 percent of the SSS participants at UCM have earned bachelor’s degrees.

TRIO faculty enjoy sharing benefits of such programs, which they’ve witnessed first-hand.

Joanne Reinke, a math instructor for 22 years in TRIO, believes SSS opportunities help build student confidence. “Our goal is to give them a good foundation,” she said. “Some of them go on to graduate with high GPAs. If it weren’t for a program like this, I doubt if they would have made it.”

“The most satisfaction I get is helping the students who would not otherwise get help. We provide services that are free. They couldn’t get the same quality or level of services anywhere else on campus for free,” added Fran Kangas, academic coordinator of SSS since 1995.

Students such as LaTisha Wilkins, Blue Springs, also appreciate the caring, hands-on approach of TRIO faculty, particularly when it comes to tutoring for tough chemistry and algebra courses she needs to take to earn a nursing degree.

“They give me a lot of help with all my classes,” she said. “They go over the top for me.”