Student Support Services Celebrates 30 Years at CWC

March 6, 2018

logo for TRIO student support services

Student Support Services celebrates 30 years at Central Wyoming College with an open house in conjunction with the Library on Wednesday, March 7 starting at 11:30am.  Refreshments will be served and student success stories will be visible to appreciate until 1pm.

Student Support Services is a federally funded grant under the TRIO program. This is an honorary program for students who are dedicated to their success. Throughout the past 30 years Student Support Services has served more than 6,300 students. The current Student Support Services programs serves 410 students annually and is the largest program in a six state region; Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. The specific mission and purpose of Student Support Services is to provide services and educational opportunities for qualified low-income, first-generation, or disability students to guide them toward success in academia and to grow skills for independence.

 “Linda Fossett wrote the original grant for TRIO Student Support Services, under the auspices of Mohammed Waheed,” said Jewel Dirks, who was the Student Support Services director at CWC from 1991-2001. “Janelle Pepper Chew was the first director, 1988-1990. I think the original number served was something like 210.” 

Each year the Annual Performance Report tracks the success of the program based on how objectives are met with the numbers of students served.

“We upped the number of students served to 410 to get a better ratio,” Dirks said. “We were pretty much an orphan during those first few years and housed in very crowded conditions in an upstairs room of the old library. The computer lab and tutor lab came into being around 1995, which reflects the changed attitude that the college now has towards the importance of the grant.” The area was remodeled again during the summer of 2016 and has become a hub of student activity.

Dirks said Student Support Services was playing a key role in diversity development in the 1990's, having several sub grants which included a Native American Film Festival

“The festival brought in some pretty neat international Native American stars and directors,” Dirks said. “We also had projects which included some fantastic Cinco de Mayo celebrations. We had an ongoing diversity newsletter and monthly meetings with the tribal leaders and reservation service agencies, and ongoing pot-luck celebrations; any excuse to get together to eat. The push for improved relations with the tribes really came from our offices, then. That preceded the college's eventual commitment to a Tribal liaison officer, a position currently held by Ivan Posey.” 

Marilu Duncan became the director for the project in 2001 and continued until her retirement in 2016. Duncan was honored by the Wyoming Association of Community College Trustees as the year's Professional Employee of the Year during 2014. Duncan, who has been responsible for multiple diversity activities at CWC, was recognized at the annual Wyoming Association of Community College Trustees Awards and Legislative Reception in Cheyenne in 2014. Duncan continued the program with a climate of acceptance for all students.

Under Jewel Dirks, Student Support Services became the voice of diversity and inclusion for students at the college. Student Support Services is a safe haven for students and honors the richness of the student population. We are who we are because of all of us, not just one person. The flags in Student Support Services represent the respect for all students who have been on our campus. ”

Marilu Duncan

For more than a decade, Duncan had been the director of one of the largest and most successful Student Support Services programs in the nation. She touched the lives of many students and helped them on their path to succeed

“Oh, I love it. Without a doubt, these were the best 16 years of my life,” Duncan said. “I love the students, faculty, all of the people I worked with. This program allows students to follow their dreams. I am so proud of my American citizenship and everyone should have the opportunities that I have had.”

Following Duncan’s retirement, Deryle Matland took the position as program manager in 2016. Matland said she is excited to be part of Student Support Services in its 30 year celebration and believes in honoring the efforts of students.

“First generation students often struggle with a dual identity, who they are at home with their family and culture and who they are as students,” Matland said. “We strive to acknowledge the value and importance of their achievements in education and want them to know that being a first generation student is something to be proud of. When they it make to graduation, we are hugely celebrating their successes.”