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York College of PA Recognizes First-Generation College Students, Faculty, and Staff Through National Honor Society, Advisory Group

April 11, 2022
Students walking across campus bridge

More than 16 percent of York College students are first-generation students, the first in their family to attend college. To offer support to them, the College has created a First Spartans Advisory Group and established a chapter of the Tri-Alpha Honor Society (National Honor Society for First Generation College Students) on campus.

“For two years, I have offered a First Spartans FYS class for first-generation students,” said Adrienne Brenner, professor and adjunct faculty fellow at the Center for Teaching and Learning. “During the Fall 2021 semester, my students discussed the need for a first-generation student/faculty advisory group to offer programming and support for first-gen students. We started this group in the Spring of 2022." 

The First Spartan Advisory Group’s mission is “to improve and enhance the experience for first-gen students by cultivating a sense of awareness, belonging, inclusion, encouragement, and resilience among first-gen students, faculty, staff, alumni, and allies. The First Spartans Advisory Board will work with other academic and co-curricular divisions to advocate for and foster a positive campus climate and resources for first-gen students.”

Vice President for Enrollment Management Brian Hazlett, who arrived at York College in January, brought Tri Alpha to Brenner’s attention. When she shared it with the Advisory Group, “They were all excited to bring this chapter to York College,” she said.

The first group from York College will be inducted into Tri-Alpha on April 27. Hazlett and Kelly Arcieri, co-op/internship program advisor for the Civil and Mechanical Engineering Department and the Electrical and Computer Engineering and Computer Science Department, are serving as advisors.

To qualify, undergraduate students must have earned at least 30 credits toward a degree, achieved an overall GPA of at least 3.2, and neither of their parents, step-parents, or legal guardians are permitted to have completed a bachelor’s degree. Graduate students are eligible if they have completed the equivalent of at least one term of study (9 or more graduate credits) and have a GPA in their graduate program of at least 3.5.

“By inviting first-generation students to join Tri-Alpha, we can recognize their good work,” Brenner said. “We would also like to know more about their needs, so the first-gen advisory board can offer programs that support them. We have space for more students to join our board and create programming that best serves their needs." 

Faculty and staff may be inducted as well. To qualify, they must have met the definition of a first-generation student at the time they completed their bachelor's degree and must be willing to serve as mentors for first-generation students.

“This honor society welcomes faculty and staff, too,” Brenner said. “We hope to celebrate more first-gen faculty and staff. We would like to offer more opportunities for first-gen students to meet with them as mentors who are here to help them along the way.”

In addition to bringing the Tri-Alpha Honor Society to York College, the First Spartan Advisory Group is planning a week-long celebration of first-generation students in November 2022. 

Fun Fact: A York College alum is on the National Executive Board of Directors for Tri-Alpha. Kayla Holdridge ’13, a Business Administration major and first-generation student herself, serves as administrator.

“I work in the Office of the Provost at Moravian College, and our Vice Provost, Carol Traupman-Carr, created Alpha Alpha Alpha in 2018,” said Holdridge. “Seeing as Carol is my supervisor, I am also the administrative support for the National AAA office. I know that York has just started a chapter and I was excited to see that as an alum!”