TRIO graduates reflect on KU experiences

Posted on May 22, 2019 in Career/Life and News

The University of Kansas TRIO programs help guide students through the process of college. Each graduation season produces incredible stories of student success. This year was no different, with a first-generation college student heading to Harvard and a non-traditional student pursing a law degree.

Constanza Castro | Photo courtesy of KU Center for Educational Opportunity Programs

Constanza Castro

As KU’s first-ever Rangel Fellow, Constanza Castro has been in the news before. Now, the first-generation college student and daughter of Chilean immigrants has walked down the Hill at Commencement. Constanza has been heavily involved from the moment she stepped on campus, including participation in the Multicultural Student Government and traveling to D.C. for advocacy. She also participated in the KU TRIO McNair Scholars Program and received support from KU TRIO Supportive Educational Services. We reached out to Constanza student to hear more about her KU experiences.

How has the TRIO program helped you?

The TRIO program has provided me academic and personal support to ensure I succeeded in graduating in four years. The most important thing TRIO provided me was a community for me to lean on when I needed support. Having people who understand your background and where you come from because they also come from that place has been beyond important and valuable.

Tell us about your experience in Washington D.C.

My advocacy for TRIO in D.C. was the first time I got to look at how federal budgeting works and how to lobby local congressmen and women to support an issue. It taught me how to find common ground with those different than me and how powerful individual voices can be in determining representatives votes on issues.

What did you learn from your time with Multicultural Student Government?

In Multicultural Student Government, you had to advocate for students from diverse backgrounds. I learned how to serve a constituency that was not only vocal, but often had differing opinions and how to diplomatically work with others to find solutions to common issues.

What advice would you give to first-generation college students?

Grow a large network. The network of people in your life will help guide you and present you with opportunities you would never even consider for yourself. It will be those opportunities which teach you the most and change your life.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation I am off to D.C. to intern in Representative Elijah Cummings’ office, and in the fall I will begin a Master’s in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School.


Robert Watson | Photo courtesy of KU Center for Educational Opportunity Programs

Robert Armstrong

As a non-traditional student, Robert Armstrong took the road less traveled to a KU degree. The Kansas City, Kansas, native walked down the Hill at KU’s 147th Commencement. The TRIO program has been part of Armstong’s education from an early age, from TRIO KU Talent Search in middle school to graduating as a TRIO McNair Scholar. We reached out to the new alumnus to talk about KU and his future.

How has the TRIO program helped you?

Without the KU TRIO program, I would not be where I am today. It has provided me with support and opportunities that I otherwise would not have had access to. Since middle school with KU Talent Search, to joining the McNair Scholars program, KU TRIO programs  have given me a network of amazing people who have helped me thrive.

What made you decide to come to KU?

My younger brother was the most influential in my decision to attend KU. He graduated from KU with a degree in social welfare in the spring of 2017. He would often rave about living in the city of Lawrence and the University’s social inclusivity.

What advice would you give to people considering going into college at a later age?

I would advise any prospective nontraditional students to invest in themselves by attending KU. No matter what phase of life you are in, it’s never too late to strive for more.

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation, I will begin as a summer research assistant to the dean of Washburn Law School. I also plan to attend Washburn Law in pursuit of my Juris Doctorate.

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TRIO’s ‘Great Mug Giveaway’ a hidden Homecoming tradition

Posted on Sep 26, 2018 in Career/Life and News

TRIO/SES Great Mug Giveaway at Homecoming 2018

TRIO/SES Great Mug Giveaway at Homecoming 2018In the basement of Strong Hall, the staff and students of TRIO Supportive Educational Services and STEM are hard at work filling the halls with decorations, cookies, music and mugs. Hundreds and hundreds of mugs.

What started 15 years ago as an idea to get TRIO students more involved during Homecoming has grown into a tradition you don’t want to miss.

Rod Oelschlager, then TRIO Academic Coordinator, launched the event in 2003. “The first one was in Room 7 with about 25 mugs that my mom donated,” Oelschlager said. “We put up a few crimson and blue streamers, made hot chocolate in a turkey roaster, and waited to see if anyone was interested. The mugs and hot chocolate were gone in 15 minutes. We knew we were on to something.”

Each year, the Great Mug Giveaway gets bigger and bigger. The number of mugs has multiplied, and a few streamers has given way to hallways turned into art studios. Oelschlager is since retired but remains heavily involved in his creation.

“After a few years in Room 7 and more and more people showing up, we moved into the hallway outside our offices,” Oelschlager said. “Today we will have over 500 mugs to choose from, hundreds of guests, and decorations that we start on in July or early August each year.”

Collecting all the mugs is a year-round process. Rod and the TRIO staff keep an eye out for mugs at thrift stores and garage sales. They also appreciate mug donations.

TRIO is a college opportunity program that provides support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a successful college experience.

Even in retirement, Oelschlager gives his time to TRIO and his alma mater. “Like so many alums at KU, we have a real love for our University. Rock Chalk is much more than just a chant to us.”

TRIO/SES Great Mug Giveaway at Homecoming 2018

—Ryan Camenzind

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