LSU TRIO Programs Receive Over $6 Million For Equity in Education

November 09, 2022

BATON ROUGE- The U.S. Department of Education awarded LSU Upward Bound and McNair Scholars Program grants totaling $6,019,530 over the next five years between 2022-2027. 

The funding for the TRIO program grant proposals, written by wife-and-husband team Stephanie and Joseph Givens, will help improve outcomes in higher education enrollment, retention and graduation of students with financial need who would be first-generation college students. TRIO grants are administered and funded by the federal government to provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Stephanie Givens serves as the Upward Bound director and associate director of the Gordon A. Cain Center. Joseph Givens is the Ronald E. McNair Research Scholars Program director. 

 “Upward Bound connects high school students with LSU in a way no other outreach program does. Students spend Saturdays on campus in specially designed intervention and college preparatory classes as well as with mentors who help them learn about applying for and succeeding in college. In the summer, we give them the entire college experience,” Stephanie Givens said. 

Through intensive support and enrichment courses, the LSU Upward Bound Program will focus outreach efforts to Baton Rouge students from Tara High School and Woodlawn High School and students in the coastal area of Terrebonne Parish at Ellender Memorial High School.

The Upward Bound Program at LSU was first funded in 2012 and has since served hundreds of students. Upward Bound Alumnus Umer Iqbal shared how the program guided him through the college going process.

“Second chances don’t come up in life quite often. As an immigrant from Pakistan, I didn’t have much guidance to go through such changes and challenges of university, enrollment, structuring and building that discipline needed to succeed. LSU-UB helped me navigate and carve out a path,” Iqbal said. 

Taylor Behrnes, another LSU Upward Bound alumnus, explained how the program forms long-lasting relationships with students. 

“It was basically a second family—a place where I could go and feel the love and support from each of my mentors. Because of this and the bonds I’ve made over the years and the mentors I’ve had, it’s helped shaped me to become the man I am today,” Behrnes said. 

The McNair Scholars Program is an opportunity for TRIO-eligible students to enter a pipeline to PhD attainment. 

“The program de-mystified the process of research and provided the resources I need to get involved in research,” said current McNair Scholar Jason Huang.

The McNair Program funds students to conduct research under a faculty mentor and present their research at conferences. Students are guided through every component of the graduate school application process. 

“The McNair Program changed my life. It provided me the best connections, networks and skills to become a scientist and pursue a PhD at UCLA. I volunteer for the McNair Program here, and work to break generational barriers and lead the next group of scholars,” said LSU McNair Program Alumna Breona Leonard (LSU ’19).

The Givens are nationally recognized higher education access and equity specialists. They entered this field because they identify with first-generation students who come from modest financial means. Joseph Givens, who also serves as chair of the non-profit access and equity advocacy organization, the Council for Opportunity in Education, or COE, in Washington, D.C. describes Upward Bound as a life-changing program.

 “Upward Bound was the most profound experience that ever happened to me. Through it, I learned that even a poor farm kid from Snake Island, Arkansas, like me, could become a leader at one of the best colleges in the country. I am excited that Stephanie is bringing those life-changing opportunities to students in this community,” Givens said.

At least two-thirds of the students in each local TRIO program are from low-income economic backgrounds and families in which neither parent has a bachelor's degree. TRIO-eligible students are enrolling in LSU in record numbers, and the grant funding and campus and community partnerships allow these programs to provide intensive support at no cost to the students’ families.

Many Upward Bound and McNair Scholars Program alumni have gone on to great success, among them Academy Award-winning actress Viola Davis, ABC News Correspondent John Quiñones and NBA Hall of Fame player Patrick Ewing. LSU McNair Alumnus Erica Klampfl, who is the director of operations analytics at Ford Motor Company, was recognized in 2019 as a National Council for Opportunity in Education TRIO Achiever. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 86 percent of Upward Bound participants enroll in postsecondary institutions immediately following high school graduation. Last year, more than 70,000 students enrolled in 966 Upward Bound TRIO projects in the United States.

 “TRIO programs are student-focused and data-driven. I get to see that look of hope in these students’ eyes, and I know that our successful outcomes show that we can deliver on the promise of educational opportunity. Joe and I love doing this work,” said Stephanie Givens.

Maureen Hoyler, president of COE, describes the greater need for TRIO programs in an increasingly diversified student body as systemic inequality and financial hardship discourage students from succeeding in college.

 “TRIO programs like Upward Bound and the McNair Program take on new importance because they continue to help students who are low-income and first-generation to earn college degrees,” Hoyler said.

More than 3,000 TRIO projects serve approximately 855,000 participants each year, according to the most recent data. TRIO projects are in every state and territory in the nation.

Through the three TRIO Projects at LSU, Upward Bound, Student Support Services, and Upward Bound, LSU has served over 13,000 participants since 1978.