We are proud to partner with practitioners supporting students to college graduation. In this blog series, you will hear from our partner organizations about their programs, best practices, and GradSnapp tips and tricks, along with inspiring work helping students reach college graduation.
Director of Scholarships
Tell us about the Bright Foundation.
The Bright Foundation was formed in 1957 by the late Lois and H. Dale Bright. They were high school sweethearts of modest means, who moved from rural Iowa to the city of Des Moines in 1929 and found professional success. Later in life, Lois decided to formalize a scholarship program – and it just so happens she had about the best last name imaginable for such a thing!
The Bright Scholars of Iowa program began in 2012 with three scholars. Today, the Foundation is focused exclusively on scholarships with two programs, about 180 active scholars, and over 100 alumni. Our goals are that scholars graduate on-time, debt-free, prepared to launch their careers and give back in some way. We are guided by this quote from Lois Bright, “We worked hard, saved carefully, invested wisely, and gave back when we could. I’m always surprised when I remember such a simple formula produced so much.” It is our hope that our scholarships provide the opportunity for another generation to do the same.
How did you get your start working in college success, and what drives your passion for this work?
My entry point into college success work was the school counseling profession and a passion for equity. In my previous role, I led and supported district-wide implementation of a school counseling program for K-12 students as they prepared for the next stage of their lives. I was able to work with other professionals across the city, state, and country who were also fierce advocates for student success. My passion for this work is fueled by collaboration with others, the creation of opportunity, removal of barriers, and seeing youth thrive on their own path.
I came on board as the first and only employee of the Bright Foundation in 2016. I’m an office of one and love collaborating with others! So if anyone else, particularly in small offices, is looking for someone to bounce around ideas with, I’m happy to connect!
How does GradSnapp fit into your model of student support?
With GradSnapp, everything I need to support our scholars is in one spot. The surveys are really helpful to have students enter their own information. I can then see our communications, notes, students’ academic progress, situational barriers, successes, and overall information within one platform.
Can you tell us about a time or give us a specific example of when GradSnapp helped you better advise a student to success?
I’m working closely with a student who has been on academic probation, and GradSnapp has helped me keep notes organized from each of our monthly check-ins and also allowed us to share documents easily, such as those used in planning for an upcoming advisor meeting. With everything housed in her student profile and extra documents unique to her in her portfolio, I don’t have to worry about keeping up with a bunch of paperwork or storing massive files on my computer. It is nice to be paperless for storage and have all of those extra documents in the same place as each students’ standard information.
Additionally, student feedback on surveys has helped me identify students to reach out to and begin building a personal connection. Even if they don’t need that type of intervention or support to be successful, I’ve found students really appreciate knowing we care about them as people and how they are doing.
What’s your message to others working in college completion?
Scholars are so insightful and full of great ideas. As professionals in college completion, we may have some level of expertise for navigating the college system, but they are experts on themselves and their experience. When you are thinking about what services to provide, don’t forget to ask those you serve what they need. Scholars possess a lot of wisdom, but also don’t always know what they don’t know. Tapping into recent graduates to find out what they found most helpful or what they wished they would have had has also been really valuable for us.
Meredith Dohmen is the Director of Scholarships at the Bright Foundation. Previously, Meredith served as the School Counseling and Student Supports Coordinator for Des Moines Public Schools, where she led district-wide implementation of the K-12 school counseling program. She also served on Iowa’s College and Career Readiness Roadmap Team as part of the Reach Higher Initiative and has been involved with college and career readiness initiatives at the state and national level.
Learn more about how GradSnapp can support your college success initiatives: request a demo today!