A special event was held May 5 to celebrate the academic success of nontraditional students involved in Oregon Institute of Technology’s Tech Opportunities Program (TOP). The event honored 107 students who achieved a 3.30-grade point average or above in fall or winter terms.
Oregon Tech’s TOP powers the potential of first-generation students, low-income students, and students with disabilities who demonstrate academic need. In 2021-22, 163 students participated in TOP. The program’s dedicated staff provides services and support in the following areas:
- Study skills, decision-making and academic coaching.
- Academic, career and financial planning as well as supplemental tutoring.
- Peer mentoring and networking with other students, staff, and faculty.
- College success classes, and faculty-led sessions and workshops.
- Assistance with applying for financial aid, scholarships, and grants.
- Community building, cultural events, and a sense of belonging.
The average age of Oregon Tech TOP students is 26, and nearly two-thirds are low income and first-generation students. In addition to challenging coursework, nontraditional students often have partners, full-time jobs, and children to care for. At Oregon Tech, many nontraditional students find support and encouragement through TOP, which provides academic and personal support to help them navigate college.
At the event, Dean of Students Dr. Erin Foley recognized students who made the president’s and dean’s honors list for either fall 2021 or winter 2022 term and presented them with certificates documenting their achievement.
Thomas Arce, director of Student Involvement and Belonging, spoke at the event about the importance of creating a sense of belonging in one’s life, finding community, and leading a life with purpose, connectedness, and authenticity.
“We truly are creatures of habit when it comes to ‘being within, among, and part of’ a community, and we can only fully flourish within communities where we truly belong,” said Arce.
As a first-generation student from a low-income family, Jacy Wasoksi, a featured speaker at the event, thought that a “true college experience” was not possible for her. Wasoksi said during her freshman year, she struggled to find belonging at Oregon Tech and was struggling with imposter syndrome and her major as well. With the help of her TOP advisor, Zach Jones, she began to see a light at the end of the tunnel, eventually changing her major and finding community in TOP.
Now a junior studying Professional Writing and minoring in Arts, Literature, and Philosophy (ALPs), Wasoski said TOP helped create a sense of belonging. “Thanks to TOP and the community I have built, I have not only had a true college experience, but I have learned to flourish and feel as though I belong, regardless of my low income and first-generation background.”