NSU TRIO students graduating at even higher rate than institution average

Jessica McClain_Downs

ABERDEEN, S.D. – When Jessica McClain started as a Northern State University student four years ago, she took advantage of NSU TRIO Student Support Services offerings such as tutoring, workshops and events.

Now as a TRIO peer mentor, she’s the one putting on financial literacy workshops – and the one helping other students just starting out in college.

McClain, a senior from Leola majoring in sociology, said she likes being able to give back.

“It’s really nice to be able to help them in that way,” said McClain, who sends weekly emails to her students with tips of what’s going on at NSU. “To have been there and done those things and know what works and what doesn’t, it’s really nice to be able to help people.”

Supporting students right from the start is something Northern’s TRIO SSS program has really made a priority the last four years, said Laci Hettick, the program’s director.

Community of Support

“We’ve really focused on getting our students off to a good start and focused on having that community of support right away their freshman year,” Hettick said.

That work has paid off, as TRIO SSS students are now graduating at an even higher rate than the institution average – 55 percent for TRIO compared to 53.7 percent for NSU as a whole. That’s 55 percent of TRIO SSS students who have started, spent their college career and earned their degree from NSU. It’s 13 percent over the program’s government-set objective, Hettick said.

“This year we did see a little bit of a spike, so we were very happy to see that,” she said.

This metric is what will be used when it’s time for the program’s five-year grant to be renewed.

Northern is very pleased at the ongoing success of TRIO SSS, said NSU Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Alan LaFave.

“The staff in the TRIO SSS program continue to excel in providing direct and outstanding academic support services for our students at Northern State University,” LaFave said. “The positive impact these programs provide for our students are recognized and reflected in our overall increased institutional retention rate these past three years from 65 percent to 77 percent and the successful graduation rates.”

Well-Rounded Approach to Success

TRIO Student Support Services – one of NSU’s two federal TRIO programs, along with Upward Bound – serves 165 NSU students. TRIO strives to help students socially, academically and financially.

“We try to take a well-rounded approach to success,” Hettick said.

That really contributes to student success as well, she said. Some students might find great value in the academic services, while others might need more help socially.

“I think having that support here on campus helps them stay and graduate from Northern,” Hettick said.

TRIO SSS services include scholarships, cultural activities, community service and leadership opportunities, academic advising, career advice, tutoring, academic workshops, financial literacy training, and social events. It also offers peer mentoring – a program TRIO is proud to have built up over the last few years, Hettick said.

LaFave said the experiential learning opportunities provided through the peer mentor program provide a solid foundation of leadership development.

Peer Mentors are Role Models

“They are role models and guides through that year who are there for our students if they have any questions,” Hettick said. “And I think it’s good to have both professionals to be able to help you navigate the college setting but also have those peers.”

Four upperclassmen TRIO students serve as mentors for freshmen – including McClain, who said getting to serve in this role is the biggest way TRIO has helped her.

“I’ve gained a lot of leadership skills,” she said.

McClain was voted the Bridge Builder Award winner last year, which goes to a peer mentor who has made a significant impact. She was also named NSU’s 2017 Student Employee of the Year.

TRIO, NSU Prepared her for Success

After graduation, McClain wants to work in the human services field. She said TRIO and NSU have prepared her for success.

“I think TRIO and Northern, because it’s such a small campus, have both provided a really good community of support for whatever I want to go do,” McClain said. “I just feel like I always have that support.”

Her advice for fellow TRIO students is to get involved.

“There are so many great things that are just there for you because you’re in TRIO, so you might as well take advantage of them – even if it’s just a workshop. They give a ton of great information.”

The same advice holds true for all students, she said.

“Just get involved on campus,” McClain said. “That was one of the best things I did is just meeting people my freshman year by getting involved in different things.”

For more information about TRIO SSS at NSU, visit the TRIO Student Support Services webpage.

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $45 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions