Louise Frazier works to support first-generation students and students of color during their time at Lafayette.
By Jill Spotz
As a child, Louise Frazier, associate director of admissions and coordinator of student success, would pass a prep school on her daily treks to and from grammar school in New York City. Similar to many private and independent schools, the building had beautiful grounds and an expansive artificial turf field, prompting her to wonder how students gained the opportunity to attend a school like that and where were the students that looked like her among the student body? The memory left a lasting impression on Frazier, who realized as an adult that the answer to that question was access. Fostering access and success became her lifelong pursuit.
Prior to arriving at College Hill in 2012, Frazier spent 17 years at Prep for Prep, a New York City-based organization that places promising first-generation students and students of color in prep schools throughout the Northeast, with leadership development at its core. But its work does not stop there. Once placed, Prep supports their academic and personal growth throughout their time in school through advocacy, academic support, and personal counseling. Ultimately, Prep for Prep provides access to top primary schools, which translates into access, preparation, and support to attend top colleges and universities across the nation. It was through this experience that Frazier learned, firsthand, that support comes in the form of communities that hold and lift each other up.
“It was like a 10-year-old winning the lottery, and they didn’t know it,” Frazier explains. “The work was hard for them because the end result was not completely clear. They had to attend classes all day with hours of daily homework during the summer, in addition to extra classes and assignments during the school year. In the end, these students earned a place at the most prestigious schools in the Northeast, with internships and experiences in high school that college kids may or may not experience at all. Working at Prep for Prep sharpened my lens on access and taught me so much about the importance of exposure, and how doors are opened because of that.”
Fast forward to 2022. In her current role, Frazier not only manages regional territories for Admissions, but also helps Lafayette students of color, first-generation students, and students affiliated with community-based organizations navigate the many aspects of college life. Her office is filled with photos and mementos of past and current students, including a birthday board where students jot down their birthdays when they pop into her office. They are often greeted with candy or a healthy snack bowl, Tide pods, even a personal water tracker to keep Frazier and one student accountable to the eight-glass-a-day recommendation that they seldom meet.
“I want students to feel comfortable when they are in my office. For some, my office is too busy, but for students, it’s perfect because they can access what they need if I have it.”
First hired as an operations manager at the College, Frazier initially had little involvement with students beyond the student workers in Admissions. Until one day, Alleyah Miner ’16 walked in looking for Frazier (on the advice of another administrator), and asked Frazier to serve as the adviser of NIA-Women of Purpose, a student organization that supports multicultural women on campus. This relationship launched a new way of connecting with students that Frazier enjoyed.
“NIA has an important presence at Lafayette and stands on the shoulders of women who were bold and brave enough to carve out a much needed space for themselves,” Frazier explains. “I have so much respect for what has been accomplished in the NIA space.”
Frazier’s ability to provide support for students expanded in 2016 when the Admissions team recognized a gap in support for minoritized students who were not part of a Posse program, prompting them to answer the question, “If not Posse, then what?” Their solution encompassed identifying and meeting students at move-in and offering the opportunity to assemble as a group once a month, which continues today.
“Those monthly conversations were and are very impactful. Students realize they are not alone and are supported by a community of others who might be feeling the same way,” Frazier says. “In between once-a-month meetings, we guide students to the appropriate departments and staff to navigate everything from roommate issues, how to add or drop a class, bill payment, employment forms, hair care, dean’s excuse, etc. Most importantly, we remind them that they earned their spot at Lafayette.”
Frazier likens the student success side of her position to being an aunt to her on-campus family. She points out that it takes a village to ensure students are fully supported and their success is connected to campus partners, including Brandon Morris, first year class dean and fellowship advisor, Alana Klass, senior associate director and counselor, Gateway Career Center, and Robert Young ’14, director of intercultural development, and current admissions staff members Bri Braswell ’16, and Dysean Alexander.
Frazier and team often kick off monthly meetings with what has become known as a “temperature check,” where students are asked to state a word that describes themselves in that moment. Oftentimes the word sparks conversation among students that is supportive and shifts the “temperature.” Frazier recalls the word “stressed,” which was the result of imposter syndrome in a chemistry class that was challenging, yet, none of the students in the group knew the others also were struggling. “That word turned into the building of a smaller unit of support and synergy that could not have been planned better.”
It did not matter how the conversation got started, because what it offered was a safe space to share the momentary highs and the lows. We provide a space that lends itself to students supporting each other. We are there as facilitators, but the students do the work to know and lift each other in our space.”
Over the years, Frazier’s work and the collective effort at the College will continue to evolve to ensure that Lafayette meets the needs of all students, including first-generation students and students of color. But one thing is certain, Frazier thoroughly enjoys her “aunt” role at Lafayette, which is evident in her enthusiasm for her family of students.
“There are people and former staff members who have raised their hands and been active in the work to support students, and for that I say thank you,” says Frazier. “No act of kindness goes unnoticed because people always remember how you made them feel and that is what’s important.”
These acts of kindness come naturally to Frazier, who lifts students spirits, supports their academic and personal growth, and ensures their success at Lafayette.
“One of my favorite questions in and out of my work in Admissions is, ‘What brings you joy?’ I want young people especially to think about joy because we spend so much time being too busy. When I interview students, I ask that question to close the interview, because I want them to ponder the idea of joy and its place in college,” Frazier says. “If you are having a bad day in college, consider tapping into that thing which brings you joy. Joy sits in a place where, if you think about it, it makes you smile. For me, a first-generation college student, being able to work with and help move students forward in whatever way I can brings me complete joy. Fortunately, I get to tap into that joy regularly on campus and on the road while meeting students who I may see again as Leopards in the fall. The road to and through college can present challenges, so I am happy to be a small part of a larger community to support students. This is important work, and I am grateful to be a small part of it.”