Day honoring TRIO programs provided an opportunity to reflect on the way the ones at Tusculum University make a positive difference for students

GREENEVILLE – A major factor leading to success in the workforce and financial security is receipt of one or more college degrees, and Tusculum University’s multiple support programs to assist students play a vital role in their achieving success.

Left to right in the foreground, Student Support Services members Josie Norton, Samantha Nelson, Estefania Juarez and Mirna Ramirez participate in a cooking lesson in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Participants in the Upward Bound Math and Science program at Tusculum University pose in front of the hot air balloon they rode in 2021 as part of a learning activity about physics.

Tusculum observed TRIO Day Saturday, Feb. 25, a national recognition of the efforts of federally funded programs at colleges and universities geared toward helping students attend and graduate from a higher education institution with a bachelor’s degree. These programs also take the next step of encouraging students to explore graduate-level studies.

All of the programs are free for students.

“We are proud of our TRIO programs for supporting middle school and high school students in East Tennessee communities and for guiding Tusculum students,” said Dr. Scott Hummel, the university’s president. “Staff in these programs are profoundly impacting students through active and experiential learning and one-one-one attention that prepares them to become career-ready professionals.”

Tusculum offers seven TRIO programs, and the federal government has renewed each of their grants in the last couple of years for another five years. The programs, their original funding year, their most recent year of renewal and the current annual amount of the grants are:

Student Support Services and ARCHES participants and staff visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute.

The programs are designed for students who would be the first in their family to earn a college degree or who meet financial eligibility requirements. The SSS and ARCHES programs also serve students who have disabilities.

TRIO staff members in the Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math and Science, Cocke/Hawkins Upward Bound, Talent Search and Talent Search-West connect with students in area middle schools and high schools. They work individually with students in those schools, conduct a variety of activities and provide cultural and educational trips, all with the overarching goal of seeing the students attend a college of their choice and earn a degree.

Left to right, TRIO staff members Cory Smith, Dr. David Smith and Erin Frizzell review an item.

Left to right, Steve Anderson, Meagan Stark and Karen Cox work on a project in the Student Support Services office.

One of the more well-known activities is the Upward Bound summer academy at Tusculum, which enables local students to live and attend special courses on campus for five weeks and then take a weeklong trip to places such as Boston and New Orleans. In 2021, Upward Bound Math and Science students rode a hot air balloon on campus and heard a lesson from Dr. Chuck Pearson, chair of Tusculum’s Natural Sciences Department, about fluids and what makes a hot air balloon rise.

Dr. David Smith, director of these programs, said they have been successful in exceeding their goals.

“Our responsibility is to enable students to experience a rigorous level of coursework that will replicate a college-going environment,” Smith said. “They are going through the paces somewhat like a college student and supplementing their challenging state curriculum in middle school and high school. That gives them confidence they can navigate a college environment.”

All TRIO staff at Tusculum gather at a staff meeting in September.

Students who meet the criteria for SSS and ARCHES at Tusculum receive academic advising, financial literacy education, assistance with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, graduate school advising and counseling as well as tutoring. In addition, students can apply for additional scholarships and visits to learn about various graduate school programs.

The programs also offer cultural enrichment trips, including a recent one to Knoxville to see “Hamilton,” as well as banquets and lunch-and-learn activities. Furthermore, staff members provide valuable information to students to help them understand all elements of the university, such as what the Registrar’s Office does, and encourage them to keep going and complete their degree.

Forty-six percent of the students receiving a bachelor’s degree at the December Tusculum graduation were members of SSS or ARCHES.

“The robust services available to SSS and ARCHES students contribute greatly to retention and eventual graduation,” said Rachael Barnett, SSS director. “Students who are eligible for these programs and participate in them are twice as likely to graduate within six years. Our services and activities enrich students’ lives and position these Pioneers to have enhanced qualify of life after graduation, and that gives our staff great fulfillment.”

More information about all TRIO programs is available at Further information about the university is accessible at