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Alyssa Valentyne

For junior Alyssa Valentyne, beginning her college education as a first-generation and low-income student was intimidating.

“I had many questions and wasn’t sure where and how to find answers,” Valentyne said. ”Luckily I was recruited to participate in the TRiO Student Support Services (SSS) program at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. The day I decided to participate in the TRiO program was the day that my undergraduate experience changed for the better.”

Through TRiO Student Support Services Valentyne — a double major in biology and Spanish — was connected to campus resources, practiced and strengthened various study skills, explored career options and formed a support network on campus.

“My upperclassmen mentors worked with me individually to help ensure I was developing the skills necessary to be a successful college student,” Valentyne said. “I truly felt connected to UWO and was able to effectively make the transition from high school to college.”

At the end of Valentyne’s freshman year, she applied to become a SSS student mentor for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning community.

“I was ecstatic when I received the position because I knew it would be a great opportunity to develop my leadership skills while helping other students like myself survive their first year of college,” Valentyne said. “Being both a student and a mentor of other SSS students has given me the confidence and skills that will be able to transfer into my future career and help me succeed.”

Valentyne has been accepted as a TRiO McNair Scholar, which pairs her with a faculty mentor on a research project.

“I have just begun my research project looking at how bacteria degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which are environmental pollutants,” Valentyne said. ”This topic is perfect for me because in the future I want to attend both graduate and medical school so I am able to treat patients that are suffering from toxicity.

“The TRiO McNair Scholars Program has provided me with a faculty mentor who has taught me research techniques, problem-solving approaches and has given me various other tools that will help me be successful in my future medical and Ph.D. program,” Valentyne said. “The TRiO Program has been a fundamental aspect of my life and has helped me develop personally, academically and professionally.”

In addition to SSS and the McNair Program,  Valentyne is involved with several community organizations.

“Most of my time is spent volunteering for the Liberators, which is an organization dedicated to ‘showing and spreading love’ in the community,” Valentyne said. “I am the organizer for the Wisconsin region and coordinate several volunteer and charity events along with fundraisers.”

Valentyne is a student volunteer at Mercy Medical Center where she helps manage the emergency room and ensure patients have a quality experience. Valentyne is also a member of the UWO Pre-med Society and Spanish Club, where she networks with other students and professionals in her field.

Valentyne was awarded the prestigious Mid-America Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel (MAEOPP) Board of Director’s Scholarship in April 2015, which recognizes the hard work of an undergraduate student in a TRiO program.

“My successes at UWO exemplify how the TRiO program really does work and how it makes a positive impact on first-generation and low-income students,” Valentyne said.


Written by Kaitlyn Cooper, TRiO Student Support Services academic adviser