U of M TRIO programs and CEHD Student Services celebrate first-generation students

Pictured are some of the TRIO programs and CEHD Student Services staff who were first-generation college students.

As part of the national First-Generation College Celebration on Nov. 8, U of M TRIO programs and CEHD Student Services staff and students shared their stories, and invited CEHD first-generation students to also share their story and celebrate being the first in their families to attend college. Approximately 39% of CEHD first-year students are first-generation students.

The inaugural event was founded by the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) to mark the 52nd anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965. COE is  a nonprofit organization dedicated to the expansion of educational opportunities throughout the United States. The council works in conjunction with colleges, universities, and agencies that host federal TRIO programs.

TRIO programs celebrate anniversaries

50_40_25_logoThe U of M TRIO programs in CEHD are celebrating their anniversaries this year: Upward Bound, 50 years; Student Support Services, 40 years; McNair Scholars, 25 years. The federally funded programs ensure equal opportunity and equitable access to higher education for underrepresented students. Watch this video highlighting the impact of their work and a tribute video to Bruce and Sharyn Schelske, who worked with U of M TRIO programs for over 40 years.

From refugee camp to first-generation student

CEHD sophomore Lydia Thai Thai

During civil unrest in Burma, Lydia Thai Thai’s father fled to Thailand where she was born in 1995. Eight years later her family was one of the first waves of immigrants to move to a refugee camp in central Thailand. While in the camp, her father started a school and Lydia volunteered at the school teaching children and learning at the same time. “I didn’t know much English, but I started picking up the language while assisting the teachers,” Lydia recalls.

When her family moved to the United States in 2008, Lydia began attending Humboldt Junior High School in St. Paul. As a seventh grader she worried the language barrier would pose a problem interacting with classmates, but her concerns quickly dissipated as she encountered her fellow students. “I was put into an ELL class with many newcomers,” she says. “The class was diverse, but I met a lot of people who spoke the same language as me. It made me more comfortable.”

In high school, Lydia began playing tennis with the Saint Paul Urban Tennis (SPUT), a program that uses the sport to help youth develop character by learning responsibility, teamwork, integrity and service. After her first year with the program, she was invited to coach younger players. “I just love the kids there,” she says. “Not just teaching tennis, but teaching the life skills.”

A sophomore in CEHD, Lydia was accepted to other colleges but chose the University because it was closer to home. As the oldest child, Lydia takes responsibility for translating documents and running errands for her family since her parents don’t speak English very well. As a student, she feels added responsibility to her family. “Being the first in a family to go to college is a lot of pressure,” she says. “If you come from a family where parents or relatives never went to college, they don’t know what college is like and that there are many careers to choose from.” Knowing that many parents of first-generation students want their children to go to medical school or law school, Lydia offers this advice: “A lot of first-generation students should give themselves the opportunity to explore…finding out what you like to do is important.”

As a first-generation student, Lydia credits the TRIO program and PsTL’s First Year Experience in helping her succeed during her freshman year. “FYE and PsTL classes helped me build a community and prepared me for future classes,” she says. “The TRIO class gave me a chance to learn where everyone is coming from…to understand their cultures…it was a very diverse group and I really liked it.”

One-on-one tutoring from PsTL’s Rhiannon Williams helped Lydia understand class assignments and gain access to resources she didn’t know existed like the Writing Center. SPUT Executive Director Becky Cantellano also serves as a mentor for Lydia, giving her resources and opportunities to explore career paths. Of the four SPUT life skills, the one that resonates most strongly with Lydia is service. She believes in giving back.

Despite a busy class schedule, she volunteers at the Hubbs Center in St. Paul helping adults learn English. “I was once an immigrant and didn’t know English, so for me to help adults is really easy,” she says. “I understand the struggles of trying to learn a new language and I can give them advice and resources.”

In addition to school, SPUT and volunteering, Lydia works with children at the El Rio Vista Recreation Center’s after school program. She also runs their summer and winter break programs. She is responsible for organizing homework help, and planning activities such as field trips, crafts, swimming and playtime in the gym. “I’ve had a lot of advantages getting to a lead a program at 20 years old,” says Lydia. “I want to make it the best year ever so they’ll be back next year.”

Her experiences with children in the camps, at SPUT and the El Rio Vista Rec Center reinforce Lydia’s desire to pursue social work, even though her parents suggest otherwise. “I told them, ‘I’m going to give this a try. You just watch me, this is a good career.’”

Youth studies undergraduate student receives student leadership award

ThaoSYouth studies undergraduate student Soua Thao (pictured in the middle) was awarded the Sharon Doherty Student Leadership Award from the University Women’s Center. Thao serves on the youth advisory council for the National Youth Leadership Council, a service-learning organization. At the U of M, Thao is a TRIO student and is pursuing a minor in Leadership and is a part of Students Today Leaders Forever. With the award funding, Thao will attend a national leadership conference.

The Sharon Doherty Award recognizes a woman-identified student who has demonstrated outstanding volunteer service concerning women’s issues on campus or in the broader community.


Academic advisers receive Global Programs and Strategy Alliance travel grants

Don Riley, academic adviser in CEHD Student Services, and Nate Whittaker, TRIO Student Support Services adviser, received U of M Global Programs & Strategy Alliance (GPS) travel grants. Riley traveled this month to Argentina to meet with the program staff for the Learning Abroad Center’s “Language and Culture in Buenos Aires” program.  Riley’s goal is to create an embedded program in which students take the APPS Going Global class in the A term of a spring semester and then spend spring break putting their tools to use in Argentina.  Designed as a first experience abroad, the course is meant to expose students to the variety of reasons students go abroad:  language study, cultural immersion, internships and service learning, and regionally-specific coursework

Whittaker’s grant will bring Anthea Jansen to the U of M in October 2015. Since 2010, Jansen has conducted the service-learning component of Whittaker’s South Africa global seminar at Afrika Tikkun, where she oversaw many of the social and youth services. Jansen is also a trainer for the South African National Association of Child Care Workers and is starting a new after-school program with Whittaker in poverty-torn areas of Cape Town titled “Bridges.” She has several years of experience working in Delft Township, known for its substandard schools, lack of jobs, and high rates of crime, HIV/AIDS, and tuberculosis. While at the U of M, Jansen will be learning about best practices in program development, speaking, and meeting others who have a vested interest in collaboration, sharing expertise and knowledge, and developing partnerships with numerous South African programs and institutions.

CEHD’s TRIO Student Support Services host 2015 TRIO Adult Student Leadership Conference

Photo credit:  Kristin Verby
Photo credit: Kristin Verby

More than 125 TRIO students from colleges across Minnesota attended the annual TRIO Adult Student Leadership Symposium held at Coffman on February 7. TRIO Student Support Services staff organized the conference around the theme of Honoring our Past, Owning our Future, in celebration of TRIO’s 50-year anniversary. View the video recap.

John S. Wright, Morse-Amoco Distinguished Teaching Professor of African American & African Studies and English at the University of Minnesota, delivered the keynote address, with a welcome from CEHD dean Jean Quam. TRIO alumnus Anthony Shields was the master of ceremonies.

Several CEHD student services staff presented at the conference on themes related to graduate school, working with kids, building social capital, the McNair Scholars program, and career decision making. Staff presenters were Anthony Albecker, Sheri Beck, Shade Osifuye, Jeannie Stumne, and Bai Vue. Additionally, more than 30 University of Minnesota TRIO students volunteered at the conference. Twin Cities-based Hmong dance group Nkauj lab Nraug OO provided the closing entertainment.

The annual conference is held at different institutions each year and is part of the Minnesota TRIO Association.

TRIO alumni win MN TRIO Achiever awards

Two University of MN TRIO alumni have won 2014 MN TRIO Achiever awards. Kao Kalia Yang is a Student Support Services alumna from Carleton College and a McNair Scholars alumna from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Her first book, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir, is the best-selling book in Coffee House Press history and was the featured book for CEHD Reads during the 2013-14 academic year. In 2009, The Latehomecomer won the Minnesota Book Award for memoir/creative nonfiction as well as the Reader’s Choice Award, becoming the first book to win two awards. Yang holds a MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts in creative nonfiction writing.

Simon K. Shannon is a McNair Scholar alumnus who holds a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and a B.A. in chemistry from the University of Minnesota-Morris. Shannon is currently an Advanced Product Development Specialist at 3M Company. Shannon holds 11 patents and has authored numerous papers. While a graduate student, Simon helped organize a Minnesota chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemist and Chemical Engineers, from whom he received their Exemplary Leadership Award in 2004. Simon currently chairs the 3M African American Network and is active in peer and youth mentoring.

Yang and Simon will be honored in November at  the Mid-America Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel (MAEOPP) annual conference. MAEOPP is the regional association for TRIO Programs.

Talking pictures: first-generation college students speak from behind the lens

Rashné Jehangir, associate professor in the department of Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, and Veronica Deenanath, graduate student in Family Social Science, developed a cross-university collaboration between the TRIO Student Support Services Program and their students and the College of Education Human Development’s iPad initiative with support from an Institutional Change Grant from the Women’s Center. The outcome was a photo narrative research project focused on the rich and multiple identities of students who are first in their family to go to college.

Drawing on a photo narrative methodology, the project invited students to take photographs of their lived experiences within the curricular structure of the TRIO course titled: Introduction to TRiO: Identity, Culture, and College Success. Several student photographs along with their artist statements will be on display at an upcoming art exhibit in Appleby Hall.

Please join us for the opening reception.

Talking Pictures: First-Generation College Students Speak from Behind the Lens

An AHA! Exhibit (Appleby Hall)

Monday, September 15, 2014

12:00 p.m.

Appleby Hall, Garden Level