Special Recognition Event Held for Averett University Military and First-Generation Graduates

Posted on December 10th, 2021 by Cassie Jones

Following graduation rehearsal for tomorrow’s big day, Averett University graduates who are active duty military or veterans, as well as graduates who are the first in their family to graduate from college, were honored in a special ceremony.

This is the first time the University has held a formal ceremony for this, but plans to do it along with all future commencement events.

“You are part of a new tradition at Averett,” said Averett University President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks.

Approximately 20% of Averett’s winter graduating class are first-generation students. Access to higher education for students from all facets of life is a major point of pride for Averett, with almost 40% of its traditional student population and nearly 60 members of its faculty and staff who are first-generation college graduates.

Dr. Franks went on to share that she was a first-generation student who graduated with a bachelor’s degree, then went to graduate school and eventually, earned her doctorate.

“I understand very well the kind of dedication it took to get to this moment,” Franks said. “I know what it feels like to leave the culture of your own family and strike out in pursuit of your own dreams, your own ambition, with no one having paved the way, or real understanding of what it all takes.”

The graduates were called up one-by-one to receive a first-generation pin to wear on their robes at tomorrow’s commencement exercises. Dr. Billy Wooten, dean of engaged learning and executive director of the Center for Community Engagement and Career Competitiveness (CCECC) at Averett, officiated, while CCECC staff handed out the pins.

Graduates with military service were also recognized, and presented a red, white and blue tassel to wear on their graduation cap. Janet Roberson, University registrar and Military Affairs Office, presented these to the students.

“I thank you for your service, making it possible for us to live in this country and to have a life filled with opportunities that you have protected,” said Franks.

Averett has been recognized many times in recent years for being military friendly, including rankings from U.S. News & World Report and G.I. Jobs magazine, as well as recognitions like Military Friendly School® by Victory Media, one of America’s most military-friendly colleges by BestColleges.com, and a top school in the Military Advanced Education Guide to Colleges and Universities.

Veterans and current members of the military (both active and reserve) have a number of options available to them through Averett, including a generous 25% military discount for active duty military and their family members, accelerated classes like those offered at our site at the Marine Corps Base at Quantico, competitive financial aid offerings to qualifying students, and dedicated and specialty support for active duty military, veterans and their families. Averett is a Yellow Ribbon Program and other GI Bill® Chapters participant. The annual Dan Daniel Military Resale Invitational (MRI) Endowed Scholarship dinner and golf tournament at Andrews Air Force Base raises money for Averett students who have are active duty or veterans of the military, or are military family members. Since its establishment in 2011-12, there have been 26 student recipients scholarship with more than $60,000 in awards distributed during that timeframe. On Averett’s Main Campus, there is a dedicated Veteran’s Lounge, serving as a quiet area where only veterans are allowed to relax, study and fellowship with one another without the disturbance of others.

Earlier this year, Averett received the First-gen Forward designation by the Center for First-generation Student Success, an initiative of NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education and The Suder Foundation. This designation recognizes institutions of higher education that have demonstrated a commitment to improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students.

The University also offers a vast network of resources specific to first-generation students, including:

  • A vibrant mentorship program, in which 57 self-identified first-generation faculty and staff connect with first-generation students and offer guidance on navigating college life;
  • An annual first-generation recognition celebration, during which T-shirts and swag are given;
  • Financial assistance and guidance to first-generation students during the graduation process, now including this new ceremony; and
  • A range of additional programming specifically for first-generation students, including tutoring services, career readiness tools, interviewing skills, and other student success programs.