April 9, 2019 10:46 am

As a first-generation college student, Lori Griffin faced some of the same challenges many students face today. She was unsure how to navigate the college system, and she was searching for the right path to a fulfilling career that she would enjoy.
 
She chose to attend Pierce College because it was affordable, close to home, and gave her a chance to explore her options before committing to a specific career pathway. “Pierce College was my opportunity to go to college,” Griffin said. “I wouldn’t have been able to go to college without a place like Pierce. I came here to explore, earn my two-year degree in the hope of transferring, and explore my pathways. I did not realize at the time what a positive impact attending Pierce would have on my future, and how many doors it would open for me.”
 
Griffin enrolled in an early childhood education class at Pierce, and connected especially well with one of her instructors. This professor spent a great deal of time with Griffin, encouraging her to consider becoming a teacher. “She planted the seed and helped me believe in myself,” Griffin said.
 
After earning her transfer degree from Pierce, Griffin took a few years off to work and establish herself before transferring to Pacific Lutheran University to earn her teaching degree. After earning her teaching certificate, she began working in Clover Park Technical College’s adult high school program for 11 years. During that time, Griffin continued her education and earned her Master’s in Organizational Leadership from Chapman University.
 
Her professional goal was always to come back and work at Pierce College. When a position opened in the college’s Transitional Education department, she jumped at the opportunity to work at the college that served as her springboard to a successful career.
 
Today, she serves as the Dean of Transitional Education, where she helps students gain the confidence they need to succeed in college. Many students enter her program with the basic goal of earning a high school diploma, or learning English as a second language. Although the program is located in a college, few of these students ever considered the possibility of going to college.
 
Griffin helped lead the charge to discover what exactly was holding students back from entering college. “We started looking at student success data to find out what was really happening with our students,” she said. “We had 40 percent of students in the program who said they want to enter college. In reality, only 12 percent actually took a college class. And of those 12 percent, only 2-5 percent ever earned a degree or certificate. We found that it was a lack of confidence or belief in themselves that they could do well in college.”
 
The college set out to remove any barriers that may stand in the way of these students continuing on to college, and to prove to students that they are capable of succeeding. As a result of this work, students can now finish their high school diploma while earning college credit simultaneously. During their final quarter of the program, students enroll in college-level courses, earning college credit while completing their high school diploma requirements. The Pierce College Board of Trustees and Executive Team also removed financial barriers for students, as well, by waiving tuition for students during their first quarter of college.
 
“We have seen amazing results with this approach,” Griffin said. “Now, every one of our graduates has transitioned into college. I feel so fortunate to work in this program because it’s a game changer for students – it’s actually a life-changer. Many of these students didn’t envision themselves as college students. Now, their families will benefit and be more likely to go to college, too, because their children will have parents who went to college. I’m quite honored to work for an institution that values student success enough to waive tuition so students can realize their possibilities to be successful college students.”

Lori Griffin is one of four esteemed alumni who was honored during the 2019 Distinguished Alumni celebration.