Case Study

How Knox College Improved Student Retention With Its TRIO Program

Knox College Library

Case Study Summary

Knox College integrated TruMotivate within the TRIO program to train TRIO Peer Leaders and support new students during orientation. Its success led to expanded use with students across the program.

Supporting First-Year Students In The TRIO Program

Since 1974, Knox College has administered federally funded TRIO Student Support Services that help higher education institutions serve and support first-generation college students, low-income individuals, and individuals with disabilities in their academic journeys.

In 2021, the college piloted an integration with TruMotivate and its TRIO Achievement Program, starting with the TRIO Peer Leaders. Its success led to the expansion of TruMotivate across the larger TRIO roster of 185 students, and plans to use the assessment with their Pre-Arrival TRIO Bridge Program, where new first-year students are invited to arrive on campus five days early to orient to campus and discover the benefits of the TRIO program.

Squashing Student Impostor Syndrome With Story

Laura Bush, Assistant Director for Knox College’s TRIO program, notes that many students in the program enter college with Imposter Syndrome — feeling as if they don’t belong, having low self-confidence, and finding it hard to relate to others. As a result, they often don’t feel empowered to tell their stories or share their experiences in ways that could help them connect with other students and find their place (and voice) on campus.

“I have taken many assessments and none have offered the insight and depth needed for an individual to continue exploring and making connections about themselves as TruMotivate has. After completing the assessment, students start to see how impactful their stories are and how their motivations highlight strengths they may not have recognized before. It’s important for our students to pay attention to these details because it empowers them to tell their story while bringing intention to the exploration process.”

Laura Bush, Assistant Director, Knox College TRIO program

— Laura Bush, Assistant Director, Knox College TRIO program

Bush shares that, “in our program, a critical emphasis is placed upon career development because participating students face higher student loan debt than their non-income eligible peers, yet may not have a full picture of the career opportunities available.”

She understands that when students can make a connection between how they intrinsically operate, they’re more likely to externally thrive, which is why strategic initiatives like TruMotivate are a vital part of helping students actualize their career potential.

In the Spring of 2020, Bush learned about TruMotivate from the campus career center and piloted the assessment with TRIO staff and Peer Leaders. Her hope was that it would help students not only feel welcomed and heard but also gain a starting point for written personal reflection. 

TRIO Peer Leader Melina Minaya pointed out that, unlike other assessments, where you know the answer they’re looking based on the options given and can adapt your answers, TruMotivate was unpredictable. Melina shares, “I didn’t know what to expect from sharing my story but the results were telling. It not only reinforced the way I felt about myself but also pointed me toward a better understanding of how and why I show up in the world the way I do.”

Improving Campus-Wide Student Support

After discovering her motivations, it was easier for Minaya to see them in real life and use them to refine her career options. By proactively sharing her report with her academic counselor, she was able to receive better, more individualized support, especially during a discussion about which types of internships or jobs would be a great fit and why certain opportunities may not play into her motivations.

“Whether it is for post-graduate programs, study abroad, or career development, the report has been helpful in offering TRIO students further insight into how their motivations are activated in a variety of contexts and environments.”

— Laura Bush, Assistant Director, Knox College TRIO program

Bush shared that this experience hasn’t been unique to Minaya. The TruMotivate assessment has been an ideal jumping-off point for students to better engage with other departments on the Know College campus. 

For example, one student struggling with graduate school exploration and experiencing hesitancy around choosing the best-fit degree used TruMotivate to connect her past story and family history with her motivations, and ultimately, her career choice. It helped put important puzzle pieces together that empowered her to make a decision based on the environment and program where she’s most likely to flourish.

Engaging Students At All Stages

Since the initial pilot, Bush administered a soft rollout of the TruMotivate assessment with her staff, other post-traditional students, and the undecided sophomores and juniors within the TRIO program. What she discovered is that understanding how you’re wired, what motivates you, and how that maps to major and career choices is helpful in every phase of academic and career exploration an individual is in. 

Looking Ahead…

Her team plans on continuing to implement TruMotivate on campus to collectively support students. As a TRIO Peer Leader, Minaya is in full support. She believes her peers would benefit from knowing their core motivations.

“There is a lot of focus on the money a career could bring,” says Melina. “If students had access to their core motivations, they could spend less time trying to fit into a mold that may not work for them and more time designing and envisioning themselves in a fulfilling job.”

Melina Minaya, Knox College TRIO Peer Leader

Melina Minaya, Knox College TRIO Peer Leader

Integrating TruMotivate into the program’s first-year student experience initiative was a rewarding experience. Bush looks forward to following these students over the course of the next four years and recommends the assessment to other colleges with TRIO programs. She shared, “I would definitely recommend other TRIO programs and college access and support programs use TruMotivate. It truly stands apart by obtaining the narrative and voice of students, which is so important to the ethos of TRIO programs.”

To learn more about how the TruMotivate assessment and student guidebook can be used on your campus to enhance first-year experience programs, new student orientation programs, and campus-wide student engagement, reach out and contact our teamwe can’t wait to speak with you!

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