TRiO grants will expand services to students

Participants in TRiO Student Support Services are pictured at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit in 2014. Grand Valley earned three TRiO SSS grants to expand services to students.
Participants in TRiO Student Support Services are pictured at the Charles H. Wright Museum in Detroit in 2014. Grand Valley earned three TRiO SSS grants to expand services to students.

Grand Valley received more than $3.7 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education to fund and expand services over five years to students enrolled in one of three TRiO Student Support Services (SSS) programs.

The grants will serve students who are first-generation in college or from families with lower incomes. Grand Valley's TRiO SSS programs provide intensive tutoring, learning skills support, academic advising and mentoring to students while assisting them in other ways to be successful, through counseling, financial guidance and offering other resources.

Two of those grants will fund new initiatives: TRiO SSS Teacher Preparation will serve students pursuing bachelor's degrees with teacher certification, and TRiO SSS STEM/Health Sciences will serve students who are majoring in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, nursing and other health professions. TRiO SSS is a long-standing program at Grand Valley.

Grand Valley was the only Michigan institution to be awarded three TRiO SSS grants, and the only state institution to receive the TRiO STEM/Health Sciences grant. The grants will be implemented September 1.

Nancy Giardina, vice provost for Student Success, said the grants allow the Student Academic Success Center to serve twice as many students as in past years. "I am very appreciative that the SASC, through collaborations across the university, met challenging strategic goals to retain the long-standing TRiO grants and secured additional grant funding to provide more intensive support for Grand Valley students," Giardina said.

Mike Messner, assistant vice provost for Student Success, said the general SSS program (it was known as the Educational Support Program) serves 215 students. The Teacher Preparation program will serve 140 students and STEM/Health Sciences will serve 120 students.

Messner, who will serve as principal investigator for the STEM/Health Sciences program, said the new programs are a good fit for Grand Valley and the state of Michigan. "Through these federal grants, we are able to get more students into STEM fields, into health care and into teacher education," he said. "It's good for the state as we try to keep college graduates in Michigan."

Arnie Smithalexander, from the College of Education, will serve as the principal investigator for SSS Teacher Preparation. She said its goal is to help more students from urban schools and communities prepare for teacher education, and be successful in the College of Education. Joshua Brandsen and Claudia Sowa Wojciakowski helped write the grant.

Over time, Smithalexander said, the grant will provide a cohort of education majors with resources to become successful graduates, perhaps including scholarships that would enable students to continue volunteering and building skills to be better prepared for teaching. "Many students from urban schools have to work to earn money for tuition. Scholarships would allow them to volunteer and focus on building their resumes and skills," she said.

MarcQus Wright, director of TRiO SSS and principal investigator of its grant, said the new programs are needed at Grand Valley. For 60 openings in the traditional SSS program, Wright received 300 applications.

Wright said students who participate in SSS are in good academic standing and have a 96 percent persistence rate, 90 percent are in good academic standing and the six-year graduation rate is 76 percent.