Promoting success

GVL / Luke Holmes - Megan Buchman practices giving a shot to a test dummy in the Center for Health Sciences building downtown on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.

Luke Holmes

GVL / Luke Holmes – Megan Buchman practices giving a shot to a test dummy in the Center for Health Sciences building downtown on Monday, Sept. 26, 2016.

Megan Webster

For first-generation and/or low-income students who are pursuing or are interested in a degree in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) or health sciences at Grand Valley State University, there is an additional resource on campus that offers academic, social and cultural support: the TRiO Student Support Services STEM-Health Sciences program.

This federally funded support program is designed for students who are pursuing a STEM major and are first-generation college students or students coming from a limited-income household looking for extra support as they enter a college environment. The TRiO STEM-Health Sciences program offers individualized academic support, STEM-specific seminars, field trips and cultural events, as well as financial literacy workshops, calculator and laptop lending, and graduate school counseling.

Nykia Gaines, director of the STEM-Health Sciences program, said the main goal of the program was to represent students who may have felt under-represented in the past.

“Oftentimes, these students start here not knowing their resources, therefore feeling like they don’t belong, sometimes feeling like imposters or having imposter syndrome,” Gaines said. “What we are trying to do is combat those feelings so that they actually persist.”

Gaines said not only is this program an initiative to support first-generation and limited-income students academically, but it is also a program designed to offer social and cultural support in an effort to increase students’ comfort on a college campus.

“In addition to that, we focus on personal wellbeing,” Gaines said. “We try to increase the socialization that these students have so that they are a little more comfortable to transition and navigate all the different options that college campuses have. “

Last semester, this program of TRiO helped many students successfully navigate GVSU culturally, academically and socially.

“These students, despite any characteristics or labels that they have as first generation or low income, they are really successful,” Gaines said. “Last semester, we had 14 students on the dean’s list, 42 of them had over a 2.5 (GPA) or higher and the average GPA was a 2.85.”

MarcQus Wright, the director of TRiO, said at a school as large as GVSU, it’s important for students to have additional support when they need it.

“At a university with over 25,000 students, it is very easy to get lost,” Wright said. “Our role in TRiO Student Support Services is to serve as a guide and resources for first-generation college students and students with limited resources. We are to respond to questions, concerns and to help students navigate unexpected roadblocks.”

Wright said TRiO takes on a holistic approach to student success and makes an effort to provide support in all areas, allowing for greater academic success.

“The time we will spend with students builds a trust that allows us to help students on personal levels that often block academic progress,” Wright said. “Our support helps to dissect their whole lives. Then, they can begin to focus on academics.”

In addition to the STEM-Health Sciences program, there are many other programs offered by TRiO to cater to different groups of students. These programs, including the one designated for STEM and health sciences majors, are open to all students who meet the criteria.

“This is a very multicultural student support program,” Gaines said. “I think sometimes individuals may think that it could be for one particular student population, but it’s not. All students are welcome who meet the criteria. It’s not specific towards one specific race or ethnicity.”

As of right now, the STEM-Health Sciences program has a rolling admission and is applicable to anyone who is pursuing a STEM degree and is a first-generation and/or limited-income student.

For more information on this specific program or to find the application, visit For information on all the different TRiO programs, visit