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Howling Success

Howling Success: Caitlyn Sosbe Paves the Way for First-Generation Students Through Work with TRIO

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When Caitlyn Sosbe received her bachelor’s degree in communications from NC State University in the mail last month, it was a victorious moment not only for her but also for her family and neighbors who had watched her grow and supported her every step of the way. As the first in her family to attend a four-year institution, Sosbe had left her small town of Rougemont, N.C., to enroll at one of the country’s largest and most prestigious universities. Fortunately, she had the support of both her community at home — and at her new home — to help her succeed. 

At her mother’s suggestion, one of the first things Sosbe did after being accepted to NC State was to get involved in the university’s TRIO Student Support Services Program. 

“My mom was in TRIO at Piedmont Community College, and one of the main things she told me is that when I went to NC State I had to go into TRIO Programs because she knew the opportunities TRIO can give to students,” Sosbe said. “I didn’t always listen to everything she said, but I did follow her advice that time and it really did make a difference.”

Sosbe was a mentee in TRIO’s Peer Mentor Program as a first-year student, and after seeing how the program worked and how it helped her personally adjust to college life, she became a peer mentor herself. For the past two years, Sosbe was a mentor to her assigned mentees and her peers in the program. She mentored three students in total and planned group events for mentees and mentors to attend, including activities like resume building and using NC State’s student employment portal, ePack. She also showed her support and helped foster a closer TRIO community by attending theater shows and movie nights at NC State with other students in the program. 

Caitlyn Sosbe and other TRIO students on a graduate school tour.

Sarah Wright, assistant director of TRIO’s Student Support Services, nominated Sosbe as a Howling Success for all of these reasons and more.

“Caitlyn’s dedication to the program was unmatched and seen in her efforts to continue to foster community and belonging amongst first-year students in the TRIO Student Support Services program,” Wright said. “No one TRIO student has contributed to TRIO as extensively — not as a student, but as a young professional.”

No one TRIO student has contributed to TRIO as extensively — not as a student, but as a young professional.

Over the next four years later, Sosbe helped further the mission of TRIO Programs by leading the Peer Mentoring Program and producing and hosting TRIO’s Beyond the Bell Tower podcast. One of her favorite episodes from this year was an interview with a high school senior and a senior at NC State, where she compared their experiences of remote learning and graduating during a pandemic. 

Another of Sosbe’s most notable achievements with the program came during the past year when she helped TRIO complete its annual DASA Assessment Report. She implemented and facilitated six student focus groups, for which she wrote questions, finalized consent forms and worked to ensure student participation. 

“I feel that working on the TRIO focus group research is my way to give back to a support system that has helped me thrive at NC State,” Sosbe said. “Being able to speak with students and give them a chance to let their voices be heard so that we can know about organizations like TRIO was a very rewarding experience for me.”

I feel that working on the TRIO focus group research is my way to give back to a support system that has helped me thrive at NC State.

Sosbe’s involvement in TRIO and helping her fellow students has also helped inform her own educational goals moving forward. She especially found inspiration from a spring break trip with TRIO, where she and other students in the program learned about and toured graduate school programs in Georgia. 

“I learned so much on that trip because I was a sophomore at the time and I didn’t know anything about graduate school since I was a first-generation college student,” Sosbe said. “None of us had ever really experienced what graduate school was like, so being able to go on that tour helped me decide if I should go for it. Right now, I am planning to wait a little bit, but I definitely want to go to grad school once I’m ready for the opportunity.”

During her educational journey at NC State, Sosbe has also benefited from and been supported by several other programs in the Division of Academic and Student Affairs. She was enrolled in the Exploratory Studies Program for her first year and a half on campus and lived in the Exploratory Studies Village during her first year and Global Village during her second year. Being a part of these communities and her involvement in TRIO helped Sosbe find her footing at NC State.

“Being on campus was kind of hard at first just because I didn’t know anybody, and because no one else in my family had ever gone to school beyond community college, I didn’t know about a lot of the opportunities that were available to me and what kinds of things I could get involved in,” Sosbe said. “That was part of the reason why TRIO is such a good organization is that it’s a really healthy network and it helps you figure out what you need to do to succeed at a university.”

For now, Sosbe is still working in a part-time role with TRIO this summer while seeking full-time employment in her field. She is specifically looking for an opportunity that will allow her to help people and make a difference in her community. She is also proud to be a role model for her younger sister and others in her family and community.

“I’m really proud that I was able to make it through college and get to this point in my life,” Sosbe said. “It’s also great for my younger sibling to see that I’ve done it and that they know that college is an option and is possible for them when they can do it in the future.”