Meet Jazmine Clifton, Director of Purdue Promise

December 1st, 2022

Jazmine Clifton was in the seventh grade when she became involved in AVID, an in-school academic support program that prepares students for college eligibility and success. Those early experiences became the foundation upon which Clifton’s passion for working with first-generation and low-income students began.

In 2016, Clifton was attending a conference for student affairs professionals and connected with the director of Purdue Promise, a program designed to help Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars graduate in four years with little to no debt.

“I didn’t even know much about Purdue except that it was an engineering school in Indiana,” said Clifton. “But when (the director) dropped in my mailbox, she wanted to interview me for a position as a student success coach with Purdue Promise, and I was very interested.”

Pictured: Jazmine Clifton, director of Purdue Promise, poses for a picture on the fourth floor of Krach Leadership Center

Clifton recently was promoted to director of Purdue Promise after the previous director, Michelle Ashcraft, took a new role with the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. Clifton says her past experiences with AVID and as a student success coach have prepared her well for the role.

“It has been helpful to understand the innerworkings and dynamics of the program since I have been here since 2016 and held many different positions,” Clifton said. “A lot of things just flow more naturally compared to coming to a new place and having to learn.”

As director of Purdue Promise, Clifton plans to continue to build relationships among students and evolve the program to meet the changing needs of today’s students. Below, Clifton reflects on how her background has prepared her to be a successful leader:

Q: Can you share a bit about your background and what led you to Purdue?

A: I'm interested in working with first-generation and low-income students because I was a part of a program called AVID, which stands for Advancement Via Individual Determination. It’s like the Indiana 21st Century Scholars program. It’s a program that you enroll in seventh or eighth grade, and throughout high school, you participate in different activities that are beneficial to your academic success; like tutoring sessions by college students, taking dual credit class through the local community college and learning academic skills that would be useful throughout schooling. I wanted to work in a program like that. I started off working as a success coach for two and a half years before being promoted to Assistant Director and eventually Senior Assistant Director.

Q: What drew you to the Purdue Promise program specifically?

A: The biggest thing I remember was that when I was a student success coach, I made the decision that I wanted to see my students that I started with in their freshman year graduate college. So, it has always been my goal to be here at least four years to see them through. I've been here for six. So that's kind of what drew me to the program and over time has kept me here.

Q: What pushes you to be a good director?

A: I want to help my students and share the Purdue Promise story in a more holistic way. A unique thing is that I have held all positions within the program, so I would say that is almost an insider look to better understand what is needed at all levels to be successful. I love hearing different stories from students and understanding how I can help them better. When I am more connected with my students, they are more engaged with me. I enjoy being very involved on campus as well. Being in and around different spaces where students or community partners are helps with having a perspective of where the program should go moving forward.

Q: What are some goals you have for the program moving forward?

A: One of the big goals would probably be just growing the program. I would love to explore new opportunities to partner with 21st Century Scholars, but there are more partnerships and smaller goals leading up to that. I want to be able to grow and expand support for the program across campus. From a student perspective, with growth, we want to retain more students. The 2014 Purdue Promise cohort had beat the graduation rate for the university. That hasn't happened in a few years, but we’re always looking for ways to improve our support of students, which hopefully will help contribute to higher graduation rates.

Q: What are some of your strengths as a director?

A: In this position, I feel I am strong at building relationships. I value the importance of connecting with staff, students, and different campus partners, whether that's on campus, but also people in the community as well. I like to just personally be involved. Also, having that experience of being a first-generation student and low-income student and having a different perspective on things allows me to speak people’s languages in a way. I understand the struggles they are facing and can relate to them, but also have the experience as a first-generation student to have the language that is able to connect with anyone.

What is your favorite part of working for Purdue Promise and your role as Director?

A: I love hearing the student stories. I am originally from New Mexico and Arizona, so I have learned a lot about dairy farms and the Midwest, something I had never seen before. I love learning about people from the Midwest and the different perspectives. Connecting with students and hearing about the great things they are doing. Being able to be an outlet for them to let them know that even if things aren’t going exactly perfect right now, they will get through the situation, and to celebrate those moments.

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