Givens Named Board Chair-elect of First-Generation Student Advocacy Organization

October 20, 2021

BATON ROUGE - Joseph R. Givens, the director of the McNair Research Scholars Program at LSU, was named board chair-elect of the Council for Opportunity in Education, or COE, at the organization’s 40th annual conference held in Atlanta on Sept. 15. 

COE is a nonprofit organization, established in 1981 and dedicated to furthering the expansion of college opportunities for low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the Pacific islands and Puerto Rico. 

The COE membership works in conjunction with professionals at more than 1,000 colleges and agencies to help over a million students enter college and graduate. LSU, a COE Institutional Member, hosts three Federal TRIO Programs, including Upward Bound, Student Support Services and the Ronald E. McNair Scholars Program, all of which help students to overcome economic, social, academic and cultural barriers to higher education. 

Students in the TRIO programs are provided wrap-around services including assistance in choosing a college and graduate program; tutoring; personal and financial counseling; career counseling; assistance in applying to college and graduate school; workplace and college visits; special instruction in reading, writing, study skills and mathematics; assistance in applying for financial aid; and academic assistance in high school or assistance to reenter high school or college.

Givens reflects on how his own experiences with Upward Bound guide the work he does with first-generation college students: “Us, first-generation college students, have unique needs, but we also represent refreshing perspectives and new contributions. I’m committed to developing an academic community that acknowledges those strengths a first-generation student and their family bring to our campus.”

Givens was elected by a board comprised of presidents representing 10 regional organizations and ran on a platform of addressing the broad-ranging, negative impacts first-generation and low-income students could be facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Givens believes that COE and LSU are best positioned to lead these conversations.

“COE has championed this cause for decades, and more importantly, it is the collective voice of professionals who have been doing the difficult work helping these students overcome the barriers to education access and opportunity. LSU is on a long streak of record-breaking first-generation college student enrollments, and it is working on innovative solutions to these problems. Together, LSU and COE, lead the conversation for transformative solutions to these problems of inequality.”