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Giving young people a


prefer the word inclusion to diversity,” explains Brenda Alston-Mills, Ph.D., ’66, a member of the board

of trustees, biology professor emeritus at North Carolina State University and respected alumna who has

come to be known as ambassador for Lycoming College Prep, a program that brings high-achieving, first-

generation rising seniors from across the nation to the Lycoming campus. The program gives the students

a hands-on introduction to the liberal arts and to college life, but since academic capability is not always

enough, Lycoming Prep also exposes students to mentoring programs and other campus resources to

help them succeed.

At the beginning of her career at Camden County College in New Jersey, Alston-Mills saw first-

hand that many students seemed unable to absorb information in class. As she began to investigate,

she found that it was not due to lack of intelligence, but rather lack of opportunity. “That put me on a path toward

working with women and underrepresented groups in science. As I became more educated in the matter, the

whole concept of equity and equal access to information emerged as the primary reason these lower-income

students were having difficulty at the college level,” she said.

Alston-Mills began morphing into a social scientist, and the whole concept of social justice and equity quickly

became a passion, leading her to Michigan State University, where she served as associate dean and director in the

Office of Organization and Professional Development for Diversity and Pluralism. Now retired from that position,

she continues to teach classes and present on the topic internationally, as well as teach and publish in the basic

sciences. “To teach is to learn,” she said. “No matter the class, students always manage to say things that are

‘ah-ha’ moments for me.”

“Her presence at Lycoming College Prep is edifying,” said Andrew Kilpatrick, associate dean of student success

and director of Lycoming College Prep. “Dr. Brenda helps students reflect on what they learned at Lycoming

Prep and how to act on it as they approach college searches and their lives begin to unfold. She celebrates each

individual and everything about them.”

For Lycoming, giving back to the community in this way just makes sense. One of the College’s goals is to

offer a distinctive liberal arts education to promising students, regardless of need. This includes first-generation

students, many of whom come from urban areas — a group that demographic data show will emerge as the fastest-

growing segment of the college-bound population. It’s an area in which the College excels.

Lycoming College Prep is made possible by a grant from AT&T, which covers all costs, including travel,

housing, meals, supplies and field trips. Students stay on campus for two weeks, attending non-credit classes and

workshops on leadership, preparing for college and the admissions application process. This year 20 students

attended from 19 different schools, seven different states and the District of Columbia.

The key to helping students gain access to college and graduation? “Give them the experience, hands-on

experience,” said Alston-Mills. “Lycoming Prep tries to prepare the whole student. Give them the opportunity to

be in a real higher-education classroom, to experience the outdoors, to work independently and to be away from


“I do it to give back to my school, and I’m glad this is something that I can do.”