Black Lives Matter

Today, as the entire nation seeks peace and justice, ASPIRE Inc. stands in solidarity with Black communities, including our TRIO professionals, students, participants and alumni impacted daily by racism, violence, and systemic oppression.
We support and stand collectively to mourn the unjust loss of George Floyd, one among countless others senselessly killed in recent times and historically.
TRIO programs, established during the 1960’s War on Poverty and rooted in the civil rights movement, are deeply committed to assisting low-income, first-generation students, and students with disabilities, to overcome these barriers through the pursuit of higher education.  We know that our students hold intersectional identities beyond those specific TRIO demographics including race, sexual orientation, gender identity, among many more.
We call attention to the fight to eradicate inequality and oppression, to advance our long-cherished values of educational opportunity, and to make this world a better place by developing the next generation of leaders. 
Rooted in our TRIO history and love for this work, we invite non-black people of color and white allies within TRIO to unite in the call for an end to racism and racial violence.  We recognize our power, opportunity, and role in dismantling systems of oppression.  
Our students, families, staff, and alumni of color are valued and essential members of the ASPIRE community. We join in their anger, pain and search for change. 
Black Lives Matter. 
ASPIRE Board and Social Justice Committee

Colorado State University awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship

Mikaela Elder, a current participant in the Student Support Services Academic Advancement Center at Colorado State University, was recently awarded the Barry Goldwater Scholarship.  Regarded as the most prestigious scholarship given to undergraduate students in the natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics, it is granted annually to about 300 college students from across the country.  The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by the United States Congress in 1986 in honor of former U.S. Senator and 1964 presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Its goal is to provide a continuing source of professionals in STEM by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields.


Her motivation to pursue a career in STEM has been influenced by her own personal life experience with a genetic condition.   Diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and Mast Cell Activation Disorder (MCAD) when she was twenty-one years old, Mikaela was determined to not to allow this health issue to negatively impact her from pursuing her goals.  In her words, “Though I struggle as times, I believe that POTS and MCAD have given me invaluable skills to manage stress and maintain a positive attitude, even through difficult situations.  This outlook has been an advantage to my education because I am now motivated by challenges instead of being intimidated by them.”


As a senior in the College of Natural Sciences at CSU pursuing a baccalaureate degree in biochemistry, Mikaela has conducted research involving proteins in relation to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases.  She is also currently working on a bioinformatics project as well as a statistics research project involving methane gas at landfills.  Her career goal is to become a computational biologist for the Center for Disease Control or a medical institution where she can conduct research in mechanisms and factors affecting genetic diseases.  Her journey will continue after her graduation next May as she plans to pursue a Ph.D. in computational biology or computational medicine.  “My research experience at CSU has shown me that research is my life’s calling,” Elder said. “I really enjoy the research process. I feel really fortunate to be at a place that prepares students to be amongst the best in the country.”

Montana TRIO Student Leadership Conference

In late March, the weekend before the MTASPIRE state conference, TRIO SSS programs across the state held the first (hopefully) annual TRIO Student Leadership Conference in Helena, MT.

Staff from several TRIO SSS programs planned the training over several months and put together a 3-day Student Leadership program.  Thirty-six SSS students from 6 different campuses gathered in Helena for a 3-day training on growth mindset, leadership styles, diversity and advocacy training. Anna SanDiego from Flathead Valley Community College led off with an engaging opening “Something from Nothing Fashion Show.” The conference continued with sessions led by Carlos Arce, Dr. Steven Seth Funk, Shanon Stober, and Jeff Folsom. Helena Mayor, Wilmot Collins was a special guest speaker. The conference concluded with a visit to the state capital to talk with legislators about the importance of access to higher education.

Student feedback was extremely positive; we hope Montana TRIO SSS programs will be able to continue this Leadership Conference as an annual event.

Sen. Thune visits DWU

Senator John Thune was on the Dakota Wesleyan University campus last week during the National TRIO Day. We talked with him about the reauthorization of higher education, and I thought it went well. In addition, one of our students did talk with Senator Thune, which was great to hear directly from a student. In the attached is a picture of Senator, student, and me Thomas Madut

TRIO Day in Colorado

TRIO Day was a huge hit! We invited all programs and their students throughout the state to celebrate with us in Denver at the State Capitol. We had over 100 attendees – the most we’ve seen so far, a lot of which had to drive for hours in the early morning to be there on a cold and snowy day! Also in attendance, were Senator Leroy Garcia, Representative Daneya Esgar, and Representative Colin Larson. We started the day with our Legislator Breakfast, where they addressed us as a whole and took questions. After the Legislators spoke, several students got up to share their own TRIO stories, which were raw, passionate, and inspiring. We then walked over to the State Capitol as a group to sit in on the General Assembly in the House of Representatives, where the TRIO Proclamation was read out loud to everyone. After the Assembly, we did our Service Learning Project. This year, we partnered with Project Angel Heart, which is a non-profit organization that prepares and delivers meals to those who are severely ill. We decorated brown paper bags in which the meals will be delivered in. After our Service Learning Project, we then had lunch, during which we spent time writing letters to our Representatives and Senators, which will be hand delivered during the Policy Seminar in March. To conclude our day, we unveiled a TRIO Promo Video, which we will use to hopefully recruit more TRIO professionals to get involved with ASPIRE and become members. We then heard more TRIO stories from students, and had some closing announcements. All in all, it was a fantastic day for both professionals and students. So many smiling faces, incredible stories, and love. For a lot of our students, it was their first time at the State Capitol, which made it even more of a great experience!

University of Montana food pantry opens

The ASPIRE Community Service Project at the 2018 ASPIRE Conference in Missoula, Montana was to help this project.

ASPIRE members featured in TRIO podcast

First Generation Panel with Special Guests

December 20, 2018

First Generation Panel 

  • Panelists: Dr. Oscar Felix, Dr. Paul Thayer, Marilyn Thayer, and Andrea Reeve
  • Intro Music by: Makaih Beats (
  • Transition Music by: John Russell
  • Audio Equipment and Recording: John Russell


ASPIRE Regional Conference will be held in historic downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado at the Antler’s Hotel, September 29th thru October 2nd, 2019.

Registration and call for proposals will be coming in late spring of 2019.

For more information visit

Celebrating First Generation Students at MSU Denver

Celebrating first generation students and their hard work at Metropolitan State University of  Denver (MSU Denver).

Welcome to Montana TRIO, COE, and Educational Opportunity/Access Colleagues! 

Welcome to Montana TRIO, COE, and Educational Opportunity/Access Colleagues! 
I am delighted to have you join us in Missoula, the “Garden City”, for the 42nd – 2018 Annual ASPIRE Conference. We have packed a lot into the agenda affording opportunities to enhance your knowledge, enjoy cultural experiences, network, and promote a healthy lifestyle. I want to thank our Conference Co-Chairs, Peter Donaldson and Alysa Arrowtop for a fantastic job of getting us here today! Their time and enthusiasm deserves a huge applause! A huge shout-out to all the committee volunteers who readily jumped on ship to help! Much appreciation for your engagement.

I am especially excited about our pre-conference sessions. Many thanks to Paul and Marilyn Thayer and faculty, Andrea Reeve, Oscar Felix, and Amy Verlanic for their inspiration and vision to extend their expertise to ASPIRING leaders in our new ASPIRE Leadership Institute training (ALI). Now, more than ever, we need ASPIRE members to be equipped with skills and knowledge to be active in ASPIRE leadership opportunities. Our SSS grant writing pre-conference would not happen without the efforts of our TRIO Professionals, Andrea Reeve and Amy Verlanic. Andrea and Amy, in addition to Maureen Hoyler, COE President, are volunteering their time to coach us for the upcoming competition. Many thanks for your support!

Over the past year, as I served as your ASPIRE President, we have addressed many challenges and have been victorious! This does not happen without your engagement and advocacy. We need to continue to be vigilant and active every day. I hope you understand your membership gives you voice and is valued and important to the ASPIRE region.

I have to say I have grown leaps and bounds this last year, often lamenting I wish I had taken on a larger ASPIRE leadership role earlier in my career! It has been extremely valuable to me and it can be for you, too. Your ASPIRE Board has been a superb team to work side-by-side with this past year. My heartfelt thanks for your dedication, tireless work, and commitment to ASPIRE. If you have an opportunity, please thank these colleagues! In as much as I have built my career around TRIO, I can honestly say the leadership opportunity to serve you has been challenging but also a year of immense personal satisfaction and growth. I hope I have been one small part in making a stronger ASPIRE region.

I hope the “boundless opportunities” you take with you at the end of the conference inspires and refreshes your tool kit as you return to your programs to support your students. Have a wonderful conference, make new friends, and have a bit of fun!

With much appreciation,

Darlene Samson