We’ve moved! Find the latest Research and Policy Institute updates on the NASPA blog!
Starting in late April, 2019, the NASPA Research and Policy Institute blog has been merged into the NASPA blog! Check us out there: http://www.naspa.org/about/blog
First-Generation Student Success through Leadership
My current role as the Program Coordinator for Diversity and Inclusion allows me the opportunity to provide support for first-generation college students. Our institution defines the first-generation identity as “the first in your family to attend college, or the first in your family to attend a college in the United States”. Our Center for Diversity and Inclusion oversees support for students of color, DACA/undocumented, LGBTQIA+, and first-generation student populations. As the first-generation student experience recently came into our Center’s purview, we are building a foundation for the support for this population. As I look at research around the first-generation student experience in higher education, I am consistently finding my passion for student leadership wanting to come into the conversation.
What Does it Mean to be an Anchor Institution?
Lewis University, a Catholic and Lasallian institution with a wonderfully justice-oriented mission, is located in Will County, Illinois. The main campus is about 35 miles southwest of Chicago and about 6 miles away from Joliet, Illinois’ fourth largest city. When I started at Lewis four years ago, I was thrilled to see that the mission is front and center in decision-making on campus. Faculty and staff have a solid understanding of our institutional focus and most can recite mission values from memory. Despite this strength, at times our justice orientation shows up in very inwardly focused ways, lifting up only those who attend the institution, instead of bringing this mission out to the public for the common good. In an area that doesn’t boast a lot of institutions which align themselves with regional well-being, Lewis’ decision to become an anchor institution, providing intentional support to our local community, could have a real impact in the region.
Navigating the “Truths” of History
This year, 2019, serves as the 400th commemoration of the emergence of the first representative legislative body, “planting the seed of democracy in America,” and equally significant, it marks the arrival of Africans—who did not have any legal protections or status—to the shores of what is now known as Virginia.1 The men who established representative government and made the first laws in 1619, also took the first steps toward creating a system of slavery. Republican democracy and the political economy of slavery were inextricably linked for more than 250 years.
The Future for Student Leadership Development
At a time when the value of higher education is being questions, this is an opportunity for our field to examine our role in the academe. What are we, as Student Leadership Professionals, doing to prepare students to deal with the challenges of climate change, humanitarian refugee and immigration crises, the gun violence epidemic, and rights and freedoms being challenged in our democracy? Student Leadership Development is uniquely positioned to expose students to not only pressing issues but also to equip students with the tools and skills needed to be informed and address the most pressing needs of our world.
Discovering a New Path
The Public Leadership Education Network’s week-long Women in Global Policy seminar was the perfect marriage of my interests in people, why we do what we do, and how our choices play out on the world stage. Before attending PLEN, like most people I thought the only careers for young people in Washington D.C. were on Capitol Hill. Soon after the seminar’s first panel discussion, I quickly discovered that the nature of policy work requires every kind of person at the table. The seminar was a time to recognize the different backgrounds of the speakers and see where their strengths helped them in their careers and in life.