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CCU establishes a national honor society for first-generation college students

March 4, 2021
Sisters Kori (left) and Abby LaRocque are first-generation college students majoring in theatre design and production.

Coastal Carolina University has established the Beta Omega chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha (Tri-Alpha), a national honor society for first-generation college students. Founded in 2018, Tri-Alpha recognizes academic achievements in first-generation college students, creates enthusiasm for scholarship, promotes leadership, and provides support networks for first-generation students.

More than 25% of CCU's student body identifies as first-generation students. To qualify as a first-generation college student, neither of the student's parents nor legal guardians has earned a bachelor's degree. Candidates also must have a 3.2 GPA on a 4.0 scale and have earned at least 30 credits toward a bachelor's degree. Graduate students who identify as first-generation college students must have completed at least nine credit hours and have at least a 3.5 GPA.

Faculty and staff may be inducted as well. They must have met the definition of a first-generation student at the time they earned their bachelor's degree, and be willing to serve as mentors for first-generation students. A small number of alumni and honorary inductees may be initiated each year.

"Because our faculty and staff who are first-generation can join as well, it gives us an opportunity to come alongside our students, celebrate their academic success, and also be a support for them as they move through their journey here at CCU," said Atiya Stokes-Brown, vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Newly inducted Tri-Alpha members will receive a certificate of initiation and a pin. Membership benefits include the opportunity for students to meet other first-generation scholars from all academic disciplines on campus; identify to employers, professionals, and graduate schools as a person of superior academic ability and commitment; and receive mentoring from more senior first-generation students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

"Alpha Alpha Alpha is an organization nationally recognized for its excellence," said Aneilya Barnes, professor and chair of the history department. "As students apply for jobs, graduate programs, or other opportunities in the future, their success as first-generation college graduates will be recognized well beyond the Coastal Carolina campus. It is really exciting to be able to bring that level of recognition to our students." Barnes is also advisor for CCU First, the campus' first-generation student organization.

Joshua Moore, director of intercultural and inclusion student services at CCU, said: "Knowing where we are currently, I think that this will inspire students who are in high school or a community college to look at Coastal as an option because they know there are people here who understand being the first in their families to attend college, and they will have support."