On Saturday, March 24, 2018, Moravian College made history. The college proudly held the induction ceremony of the Alpha chapter of the brand new Alpha Alpha Alpha honor society for first-generation college students. A total of 105 new members were inducted—including 21 current seniors, 29 current juniors, and 14 current sophomores undergraduate students. Additionally, 38 faculty and staff members, 2 alumni of the college individuals, and 1 honorary member were inducted into the honor society. Inductees were initiated into the honor society through a brief ceremony, and each inductee was welcome to bring his or her family and loved ones to celebrate this wonderful recognition.

So what is Alpha Alpha Alpha, and why is it a big deal? As a newly inducted member of Tri-Alpha, I decided to find a little bit more about this honor society’s formation.

In today’s society, there’s an overwhelming pressure to get a college degree. Statistically speaking, we recognize that first generation college students graduate at lesser rates than students who have had one or both parents graduate with a degree. Colleges and universities across the nation already see fewer first generation students walking across the stage at graduation celebrating such a wonderful accomplishment. With that said, it seems worth recognizing and celebrating the first generation college students in school who are working hard defying the odds in the pursuit of a degree. Alpha Alpha Alpha sets out to do just that.

Tri-Alpha is a newly founded honor society at Moravian College that recognizes and honors first generation college students—which are college students whose parents or legal guardians did not attend college. When I spoke with Dr. Carol Traupman-Carr, one of the faculty advisers for Tri-Alpha, on where the idea for an honor society recognizing first generation college students came from, she informed me that this idea sparked when Moravian College was restoring our Phi Eta Sigma honor society, an honor society that focuses on the achievements of first year students in college. 

“As I was looking at the materials focusing on FIRST year students, I started thinking about all the FIRST-generation college students we have.  First-gens get a lot of attention in higher education news and workshops; often, the conversation focuses on what they need, coming from families that don’t understand the college journey, especially where first-generation students come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.  Of course, not all first-gens are the same, and not all need the same supports. But in thinking about this, I started to look for an honor society for first-generation students. I thought it would be a good thing to add to our student success initiatives – don’t just focus on where students struggle, but also focus on where and when they succeed. I discovered that for all the attention that first-gens get, there is no honor society for them.  So I asked the president if we could start one and got his complete support,” said Traupman-Carr.

When it came to the induction ceremony, Dr. Traupman-Carr and Amy Saul, another one of Tri-Alpha’s faculty advisers, had the privilege of writing the ceremony’s script and speeches for the ceremony. When I asked Dr. Traupman-Carr about her experience with this, she replied that is was a lot of fun. She informed me that while the structure of the script follows to a small degree Omicron Delta Kappa’s induction ceremony speech, the material itself is all new material that she and Amy Saul crafted, and they are really proud of the final product because it contained a meaningful message and made for a very nice ceremony.

Moving forward, other colleges and universities plan to follow in Moravian College’s footsteps and implement Tri-Alpha on their campuses. Dr. Traupman-Carr noted that within the next five years, Alpha Alpha Alpha will become a national honor society since many institutions have already expressed interest in brining a chapter of Tri-Alpha to their campus. We have invited our sister institution in North Carolina at Salem College to open the second chapter. On top of that, not only have our local LVAIC institutions expressed their interest, but our visiting representatives from Middle States have also expressed interest in bringing Tri-Alpha to their institutions. Additionally, friends of Dr. Traupman-Carr’s at institutions in Ohio and Michigan have expressed their interest in opening a chapter of Tri-Alpha, and ‘The Council of Independent Colleges,’ which Moravian College is a member of, plans to advertise Tri-Alpha to the other institutions in the council. As Tri-Alpha grows nationally, its roots will always be with Moravian College. As Dr. Traupman-Carr stated,

“Every chapter that follows this one must use the same certificates, same charter, same cords, same pin (which was designed by a student in Studio South), same script….the blue and grey, representing Moravian College, where the first chapter was established, will be everywhere!”

On a personal level, I find it incredible that I was one of the first college students to be recognized under this wonderful initiative. Unlike the other honor societies I am a part of, I was one of the first ever to hear what Tri-Alpha honor society stands for within the script for the ceremony. Thanks to having a last name that begins with “B,” I was the first inductee to sign the ceremony booklet; which I was a bit nervous about since I would be the first to go up on stage, but to ease my nerves about going first Dr. Traupman-Carr joked that I was going to be the ‘Alpha inductee’ of the Alpha chapter of the Alpha Alpha Alpha honor society. I was one of the first ever to be recognized by an honor society and institution of higher education for this part of my history and my achievements as a first generation college student—something I share in common with so many others that I had never realized before.

So, while I initially found it surprising that there is not an already-established society honoring this group of students, it was unsurprising that Moravian College has made the first step to recognize the accomplishments of these students. Moravian College encourages us to “be a little revolutionary,” and I think establishing this honor society does just that.

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