In 2014, Dr. Ge Chen left behind her dream job as the senior administrator and executive director of TRIO programs at the University of Texas at Austin.
Her only child, Cindy Gandhi, was working at a very intense medical residency program. So Chen retired, packed up, and moved to Little Rock to help Cindy with her three young children.
Two years later, Chen’s daughter is a successful surgeon working at the Veteran Affairs office in Little Rock, and Chen is getting a second chance to work with first-generation and underrepresented students through the TRIO program.
“I carry so much pride and passion for TRIO students,” she said. “This is a very diverse and talented student population, but also the population that faces formidable challenges and obstacles. With support and resources, these students can succeed and achieve their academic goals and personal dreams and become leaders of the future.”
TRIO is a set of federally-funded college opportunity programs, including UALR’s Student Support Services and McNair Scholars Program, that motivate and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds in their pursuit of a college degree.
Student Support Services provides academic tutoring, personal counseling, mentoring, financial guidance, and other support necessary for the completion of a bachelor’s degree.
The McNair Scholars program is a TRIO program with the goal of supporting undergraduate students who would like to attend graduate school and pursue their doctorate degree.
UALR has approximately 260 undergraduate students participating in Student Support Services and 26 students in the McNair Scholars program.
“I still have a lot to learn to be able to serve the programs and the participants effectively,” Chen said. “I want to reach out and connect with all the departments and offices at UALR so we can bring comprehensive resources to the programs and the students. I also want to learn and find opportunities to further enhance our services and maximize student learning.”
Chen holds a bachelor’s degree from Northeast Normal University in the Jilin Province of China. She worked as an English instructor and director of exchange programs at Northeast Normal University in China before moving to Arkansas to pursue a graduate degree.
She earned a master’s degree in secondary education and a doctorate in education in curriculum and instruction from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.
After graduation, she worked as a TRIO Upward Bound coordinator at Lyon College in Batesville, Arkansas. Since then, she has devoted her knowledge and expertise serving underrepresented students by improving access to higher education and promoting academic advancement.
In her most recent position at the University of Texas at Austin, Chen oversaw seven student success programs. She brings extensive experience and skills in leadership, program development, budgeting, assessment, and grant writing.
In addition to being a proud mother and grandmother, Chen is also an avid pingpong player, gardener, and fan of classical music. As a Chinese American, she is actively involved in promoting culture and traditions in the local Asian and Chinese communities.