Inaugural class of first-generation college students inducted into honor society

PSU-LV chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha inducts 23 students and 17 faculty and staff

PSU-LV chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha inducts 23 students and 17 faculty and staff

Credit: Penn State Lehigh Valley

CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Nicole Hallowell understands what it means to be a first-generation college student and the first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree — when she was an undergraduate, she was one herself.

Hallowell, now an academic adviser and retention coordinator at Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV), was on hand to induct the inaugural group of 40 Penn State Lehigh Valley students, faculty, and staff into Alpha Alpha Alpha, the honor society for first-generation college students, in a recent campus ceremony. Tina Q. Richardson, PSU-LV chancellor, was among the 17 PSU-LV faculty and staff inducted, and spoke at the event.

PSU-LV’s chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha, or “Tri-Alpha,” is one of 180 across the country. The society was started in 2018 at Moravian College, now Moravian University, in nearby Bethlehem. Hallowell, who was inducted while a staff member at Chestnut Hill College, said starting a chapter at PSU-LV was universally viewed as a positive retention effort for students. The induction of the first class will set a precedent for future inductees.

“The faculty and staff will mentor the students — that [mentoring] aspect is just as important,” Hallowell said. The mentors will be an additional “check” for the students — someone who has been in the students’ respective shoes and can draw on their own experiences to be a resource for their mentee.  

Perhaps most meaningful for the inductees, it recognizes their hard work and dedication to pursuing an education, said Hallowell.

“The most exciting part is it’s a way of recognizing the accomplishments of our first-gen students. Their parents didn’t have the chance to earn their bachelor’s degree or complete their college education,” Hallowell said. “It really shows how hard these students are working.”

Marta DaSilva, director of academic advising and career strategy at PSU-LV, said, “I feel it’s an accomplishment and motivation for our first-gen students to keep going. They work very hard, and we’re very proud of our students. This incentivizes the students even more. I’m a first-generation student myself, and I know I worked very hard. My parents did not speak English. Each student has their own unique story.”

To be eligible, students need to maintain a GPA of 3.2 or higher, have at least 30 credits completed, and with neither parent having received a bachelor’s degree.

“This is the first group on campus for first-generation college students,” Hallowell said. “What we’d like to do is make this group the core group for first-gen students on campus. Penn State Lehigh Valley is trying to provide equitable opportunities for all of our students. We’re really proud of and excited for these students.”

This year’s inductees are:


  • Lara AbdelAhad
  • Suzan Abu Junb
  • Francheska Almanzar Rubiera
  • Jacob Busch
  • Edison Caceres Alejo
  • Julie Davis
  • Anaelly Fernandez-Sanchez
  • Jacob Fetterman
  • Nicole Fix
  • Sonnya Gonzalez-Torres
  • Nathaniel Hendricks
  • Miranda Hersh
  • Hannah Irwin
  • Emily Marrero
  • Jessica Nakkoul
  • Jamie Nothstein
  • Brianna Peters
  • Anthony Ribau
  • Carmen Saloum
  • Jessica Urquiza
  • David Waite
  • Jordan Williams
  • Carlos Zayas-Tatis

Administration, Faculty and Staff

  • Kermit Burley
  • Mark M. Capofari
  • Heather Clark
  • Marta DaSilva
  • Cindy Evans
  • Georgia Gonzalez
  • Nichola Gutgold
  • Janel Ahlam Hanna
  • Kristen Hark
  • Michelle Kaschak
  • Colleen Krcelich
  • Lisa Miller
  • Denise T. Ogden
  • Dr. Tina Richardson
  • Scott Semerod
  • Vanessa Starr
  • Debra Zuech-Smyrl