Catawba College establishes honors society for first-generation college students

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 31, 2019

Catawba College is establishing an honors society for first-generation college students, becoming the second higher education institution in North Carolina to do so.

Two Catawba first-year employees — Kimberly A. Smith, associate professor of exercise science, and Marcus Washington, director of housing and residence life — are the advisers for Alpha Alpha Alpha Honors Society.

Induction into Tri-Alpha is earned through academic achievement and lasts for a lifetime. The society’s mission is to encourage and reward academic excellence among first-generation students pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

To be eligible for membership in Tri-Alpha, students must have completed at least 48 credit hours towards a baccalaureate degree and have achieved an overall GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale. Neither of the student’s parents, stepparents or legal guardians would have completed a bachelor’s degree.

Long recognized as an institution that assists first-generation college students in achieving their potential, Catawba’s 2018-19 student enrollment includes 463 first-generation students, or about 36 percent of the student population of 1,301. An inaugural cohort of first-gen students will be inducted into the new chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha this spring.

“I think this is going to be a great way to support our first-gens,” said Smith.

Washington added, “This honors society will be a place to build cohort cohesion among first-gen students and will likely be the focus of many other initiatives that target this population on campus.”

An active Tri-Alpha chapter promotes academic excellence and provides opportunities for personal growth, leadership development, and campus and community service for first-generation college students.

The inaugural chapter of Alpha Alpha Alpha was founded March 24, 2018, at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with more than 100 members, including undergraduate students, faculty, staff, alumni, and honorary members. Moravian College took steps to incorporate Tri-Alpha as a nonprofit organization so other chapters could open at campuses across the country.

To learn more about Alpha Alpha Alpha, visit