In an inaugural ceremony, Lehigh inducted 25 students, two alumni and eight faculty and staff members into the Alpha Alpha Alpha (Tri-Alpha) Honor Society, which recognizes the achievements of high-achieving first-generation students, alumni, staff, faculty and administrators. George White, managing director for Student Access and Success at Lehigh, said the university established the Epsilon chapter of the Tri-Alpha Honor Society as a way to recognize high-achieving, and often resilient, first-generation students who bring a diverse set of ideas and backgrounds to Lehigh.
Among those students was Jenny Lin ’21, who is highly involved in Lehigh’s first-gen community as vice president of Lehigh’s F1RST (First-Generation Initiative Represented by Students and Teachers). Lin says the honor society offers assurances that first-generation students are breaking down barriers.
“We are part of the next generation of trailblazers who are igniting positive change.”
The transition from high school to college can be daunting for any student, but for first-generation students, the challenge is often greater.
“I come from a very different background,” Jocelin Gregorio-Alarcon ’18 explains. “My mother is a janitor and my father is a garage door installer, and my parents only had a sixth-grade education. I come from an immigrant family background... [When I have questions] I cannot ask my parents because they just don’t know.”
To help others like her, Gregorio-Alarcon joined with two other students in co-founding F1RST, a new campus organization that helps fellow first-gens and working-class students make a smooth transition to college.
In fall 2019, Lehigh celebrated a milestone in the 30th anniversary of the UMOJA House. Founded in 1989 after several students of color requested a more inclusive residential option, the U House has fostered a community of student residents and leaders through a shared exploration of multiculturalism. Celebratory events, centered on the theme “Honoring the Past, Embracing the Future,” kicked off with an “Honor Walk” in late October and concluded with a series of weekend events in late November. All of the events—including the dedication of the UMOJA Family Gallery (pictured below)—offered an opportunity for returning alumni to interact with current students, and to honor the UMOJA values of welcome, inclusivity and multiculturalism.
Lehigh was named a recipient of the 2019 Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award by “INSIGHT Into Diversity” magazine, the oldest and largest diversity-focused publication in higher education. This honor acknowledges the work Lehigh has done to cultivate a more inclusive and equitable campus community. The application process for the award is comprehensive, focusing on the recruitment and retention of employees and students, support from institutional leaders for diversity work and many other facets of campus inclusion and equity.
In October 2019, Lehigh announced that it became an institutional member of the GEM Consortium, a nonprofit group with a well-established record of success recruiting highly qualified, underrepresented students who wish to pursue doctoral degrees in STEM fields. GEM, which was established 43 years ago, is a network of more than 4,000 doctoral alumni, with powerful mentoring and cohort-building strategies that align with the university’s goal to recruit underrepresented doctoral students, retain them and support their career objectives.