The Pioneer Spirit: Pioneer Scholars Program Supports First-Generation Freshmen

As it begins its eighth year, the Pioneer Scholars program continues to succeed in providing necessary support for first-generation freshmen. Of the nearly 727 registered freshmen for 2015-16, about 291 are first-generation students. All first-generation students are assigned a peer mentor (upperclassman first-generation student) who works with them throughout the year.

If your student is first-generation, meaning that his or her generation is the first in your family to attend college, and he or she has not mentioned “Pioneers,” have him or her contact Lindsey Peetz-Murray to sign up. 

About Pioneers  

Pioneer Scholars was designed to provide additional support and guidance for first-generation students, who may be confronted with, and perhaps intimidated by, educational, emotional, social and financial struggles particular to the first-generation experience.  

The program, run through the Academic Resource Center and directed by Lindsey Peetz-Murrayl, is comprised of a wealth of events scheduled exclusively to appeal to these students. At the start of the year, students are assigned small groups led by peer mentors. The peer mentors, a trained and dedicated group of students, make weekly contact with their group members in some way. In some instances all Pioneers and mentors gather for organized activities (like the Welcome Party, Faculty and Staff First-generation Panel, Registration and finals preparation, and the Alumni Luncheon); at other times, small groups meet individually for activities planned by their peer mentor. Jessica Kobel, a Pioneer Scholar and Pionner Book Scholarship Award, recipient shares that "I am forever grateful to pioneer scholars for giving me a support system my freshman year, and for teaching me not only how to survive college, but how to make lifelong friends."     

Statistics of Pioneer Scholars prove that it works: actively participating Pioneer Scholars had a higher average GPA than those first-generation students who did not participate in the program. A higher percentage of active Pioneers returned for their sophomore year versus those who did not participate. In addition, many past Pioneer Scholars return to the program as peer mentors. The most important factor, student response, has been overwhelmingly positive. 

Lindsey Peetz-Murray
Director of Pioneer Scholars