Priddy Scholars brings new opportunities to first year students

Chloe Phillips

At the Carboard Boat Race, Priddy Scholars Tre Jones, mass communication sophomore, and Daycee Duncan, computer science sophomore, prepare to take the water on Oct. 20. The Priddy Scholars participate in most campus activities.
At the Cardboard Boat Race, Priddy Scholars Tre Jones, mass communication sophomore, and Daycee Duncan, computer science sophomore, prepare to take the water on Oct. 20. The Priddy Scholars participate in most campus activities. Photo by Cortney Wood.

Campus activities have since seen an influx in first-generation students thanks to the Priddy Scholars program, a full-ride scholarship that encourages involvement on campus, study abroad, and service projects.

According to Cammie Dean, director of student transition services, the program began as an idea between Keith Lamb, vice president of student affairs and enrollment management, Suzanne Shipley, university president, and the Priddy Foundation, a local non-profit in Wichita Falls. The program officially began fall 2017, recruiting 31 first generation students.

While she felt a bit rushed to recruit students, Dean said she is a good fit for the program due to her experience of working with students from diverse backgrounds, including first generation college students.

“It’s always a good thing in your career to add something new and different to kind of stretch your knowledge and skills and take on a new challenge,” she said.

Not only is Priddy Scholars a good fit for Dean, she said the program is also a good fit for the university.

“I like to refer to the program itself as an opportunity for students to be fully informed participants in their education,” Dean said.

Every student on campus has the same set of opportunities yet, but due to first-generation students not having parents who attended college, they do not always have the support they need, according to Dean.

“Of course there’s 6,000 students on this campus, but they don’t always have someone there at their side to help them interpret what’s going on,” Dean said. “Or to help them reflect on how much learning or growth is taking place. The Priddy Scholars program is really directed at helping students in that way.”

Dean was also a first-generation college student. Her parents attended college but did not earn a bachelor’s degree. Because of this, she sought out support from a program similar to what she envisions the Priddy Scholars program to be like: student support services.

“I was a pretty sharp cookie when I was headed into college so, academically, I was ready but socially and culturally, I wasn’t,” Dean said.

To help support Priddy Scholars, the program has outlined plans for the scholars’ success. In their first year, they will focus on academic success, leadership abilities and service projects their second year, career planning their third and a choice option their fourth year.

“To focus on job search or graduate school search, depending upon what majors students are taking with them,” Dean said. “All of that is really about at whatever phase or level a student is at, getting them most of every opportunity that they possibly can at MSU.”

Among the plans the program has in store for students in the program, Dean is most excited for Priddy Scholars to study abroad their senior year. Nationally and at MSU, the number of American students studying abroad is low, especially for first-generation college students. According to her, financial and sociocultural issues play a factor in this.

“The idea that I’ll be working with 31 first-generation students who will have the chance to go abroad is really exciting because I know what an opportunity for a broader view of the world, a deeper understanding of ourselves and our own cultural backgrounds of travel and study abroad can be, so I’m super excited for them,” Dean said.

Not only has Priddy Scholars been exciting for Dean, there have also been some surprises. She is surprised by the large number of parents who attended their orientation dinner.

“I don’t always get to participate with the whole family: We see them at orientation and then wave at them at family weekend,” Dean said. “To have that chance again to sit with them and hear how they are doing and what they’re excited about and what they’re nervous about the Priddy Scholars program has given me a chance to be a little more engaged with the families and I really enjoyed that.”

While the program is barely three months old, freshmen Kylie Brinson and Dallas Wabbington are already reaping the benefits.

Brinson, exercise physiology sophomore, found out about the program through her high school teachers in Bowie, Texas. She applied for the Priddy Scholars program because of the full-ride scholarship and its community service aspect. During the first year in the program, participants in the programs are required to have eight to 10 engagement hours per week. Brinson is involved in the Baptist Student Ministry, University Programming Board and pre-professional society.

“On a financial level, I haven’t had to stress about it like a lot of people have, I mean I was about to fill out loan applications before I had gotten the confirmation that I had got the scholarship, also socially, all of us that have gotten the scholarship — especially the freshmen, the different classes, we’re always together so that automatically connects you with people,” she said.

Her favorite activity is a stress management workshop hosted by the Priddy Scholars.

“We get to sit there and they make us relax and get the knots out of our back,” Brinson said. 

Wabbington, social work freshman, heard about the program through researching the university’s website. Initially, Wabbington didn’t think much of the program until she received an email after applying. After learning what the program entails, including a full-ride scholarship, she had a change of heart.

“It literally pays for anything you need,” she said. “What more would you want?”

Being a first-generation student, Wabbington wanted to attend college because no one in her family has before.

“I didn’t want to be at at dead end job somewhere, so I was going to get something I was really interested in,” Wabbington said.