Gordon State College Celebrates 16 First-Generation Inductees into Tri-Alpha Honor Society

By Karolina Philmon, GSC marketing manager 

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, Gordon State College inducted 16 members into the new Eta Chi Chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha Honor Society (Tri-Alpha) for first generation college students.

Tri-Alpha was founded in 2018 at Moravian College, now Moravian University, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Following the successful induction of over 100 members, the College took steps to incorporate Tri-Alpha so that chapters could be started on other campuses across the country. According to its official handbook, Tri-Alpha promotes academic excellence and provides opportunities for personal growth, leadership development, and campus and community service for first generation college students.

“Gordon State College provides students, who are the first in their family to attend college, an opportunity to celebrate their achievements in a distinguished manner. Tri-Alpha connects students, faculty, and staff in a unique way that creates pride in their journey, mentorship opportunities, and academic excellence,” said Dr. LaToya Stackhouse, dean of students.

Induction into Tri-Alpha is earned by outstanding academic achievement and lasts for a lifetime. Student membership is open to current degree candidates at GSC who have completed 30 or more credit hours and have earned at least a 3.2 GPA. The first student inductees are Sabrina Handsford, criminal justice major; and Ryan Smith, business administration major.

GSC employees who are first-generation college graduates were invited to join Tri-Alpha as charter members. This fall, 14 faculty and staff members were inducted into this special group including Gratasha Banks, interim director of Housing and Residence Life; Dr. Samantha Bishop, director of Nursing and Health Sciences; Simonia Blassingame, director of Continuing and Professional Education; Randall Brookins, lecturer of Education; Madelyn Brown, director of Human Resources; Valerie Calhoun, lecturer of FIRE (Freshman Introduction to Reasoning Essentials); Annette Jackson, professor of nursing; Wendy Martin, associate professor of nursing; Leangela Matthews, finance and administration coordinator;LaTreena Meadows, facilities administrative assistant; Melanie Mertz, associate professor of nursing; Meagan Pearson, interim director of Advancement; Jessica Traylor, assistant professor of Human Services and Psychology; Nancy Walraven, associate professor of nursing; and Kelly Wilson, academic services assistant. These inductees will serve as mentors, using their experiences to help current students succeed.

Pearson said that her parents and grandparents had limited opportunities in higher education and desired for her to have what they were unable to achieve: the ability to remain in school, graduate, and pursue a meaningful career.

“For me, being the first in our family to receive a bachelor’s degree and then the first to receive a master’s degree is a point of pride, but this extends to my family as well. My completion of those degrees gives them a sense of accomplishment as their hard work, words of wisdom, and encouragement paved the way for me to be successful,” Pearson said. “It means the world to me that I was able to show myself, as a non-traditional learner, what I was made of by graduating and completing those degrees."

On November 8, the nation celebrates First-Generation College Day to honor the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The national observance, according to the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE), provides an opportunity to raise awareness and understanding of issues around higher education access and support for first-generation students. GSC is proud to mark this occasion by celebrating the first inductees of the Tri-Alpha.