Washington State University will honor the creation, legacy, and ongoing impact of TRIO programs with several events leading up to National TRIO Day on Feb. 25.
An alumni panel, a discussion of the history of TRIO, and a keynote speaker will highlight the importance of WSU’s TRIO programs, which are designed to help low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities enroll and succeed in college.
WSU has one of the largest cadres of TRIO programs in the country: there are 17 active programs system-wide serving 2,795 students with budgets totaling over $4.2 million in federal funding each year. The WSU programs include Student Support Services (SSS), Talent Search, Upward Bound, and the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program.
“These programs create a scaffolding of services that support and guide students from pre-college to when they become practitioners,” said Carrie Ben-Yisrael, Student Support Services director. “We are a national leader when it comes to empowering our students to achieve success.”
Instilling confidence through empowerment
Headlining this year’s TRIO events is Seattle-area higher education administrator and communications consultant Monica Cortés Viharo, who will give a keynote address on the ways students can capitalize on their life experiences to find success in higher education. She will speak on Friday, Feb. 24.
Cortés Viharo is the associate dean for arts, humanities, and social sciences at Seattle Central College and a faculty member in the American Ethnic Studies department at the University of Washington. In her role as a communications consultant, she has worked with individuals and organizations throughout Washington including the Washington State TRIO Association and Seattle Children’s Hospital.
As a TRIO alumna, Cortés Viharo knows that TRIO students enter college with considerable skills, knowledge, and life experience but frequently need to navigate a complex higher ed system not created with them in mind. Her speech “The Currency We Carry” will discuss her approach to communication, strengths assessment, and skill development; how to empower students to build agency; and how students can “name and claim” all the capital they carry from their lived experiences. The speech will be delivered in Smith Center for Undergraduate Education (CUE) 203 on the Pullman campus at 6 p.m. and will be livestreamed.
“Her message is that students bring a lot of currency with them to college, but it isn’t always recognized,” said Ben-Yisrael. “She will instill confidence in them by showing they already possess skills needed to succeed in college, they just need to identify and tap into them.”
Navigating a new world
The National TRIO Day celebration will kick off at noon on Tuesday, Feb. 21 with a virtual panel discussion with WSU graduates who will talk about their experience in the McNair Scholars Program and how it prepared them for their current professional roles. The panel will be moderated by Raymond Herrera, associate vice provost in the WSU Graduate School and director of the McNair Scholars Program.
A second virtual panel discussion, titled “From Policy to Practice: Office of Migrant Education’s HEP, CAMP, and TRIO programs,” will take place on Wednesday, Feb. 22, at 4 p.m. and will provide faculty, staff, and students an opportunity to learn about the origins of each program and how they have evolved during challenging times to meet the needs of students. This discussion will include Ben-Yisrael and Michael Heim, director of WSU CAMP and HEP.
Ben-Yisrael said faculty and staff will find the panel discussions meaningful because TRIO students are like a microcosm of ourselves — we may have different backgrounds, but we all have similar needs.
“For our students who come to WSU, this is a whole new world,” she said. “Their presence here does a lot to enrich our university.”