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First-gen Journey LB

First-generation Journeys: Confronting, Challenging, & Crossing Academic Borderlands

Student Success Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice Mid-Level Senior Level
T. Mark Montoya

First-generation students are constantly crossing academic borderlands: from high school to college; from the hallway to the classroom; from being a student to graduate/professional, etc.  While applying the ethnic studies lens, Dr. Montoya discusses how he considers intersectional identities to best support all dimensions of students, particularly first-generation students.  Faculty and staff will also learn about Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) Professional Development Learning Community.

Even though first-generation students make up a third of all college students (Cataldi, Bennett, & Chen, 2018), many academics are still not versed in the relevant experiences of first-generation students, especially if they were themselves first-generation. The reason for this is that countless first-generation academics may not see their experiences as anything other than normal.  This contributes to missed opportunities to create meaningful connections in the classroom.  Acknowledging and sharing your first-generation identity and story with your students is incredibly important.

Institutions continue to admit more students-of-color and more students from low-income situations, contributing to an already greater number of first-generation students.  How first-generation students succeed once they get to the university or college is of utmost importance. This is especially true from a moral standpoint—if institutions raise students’ hopes by admitting them, then they should also provide accessible tools to support students’ success on campus. As we know, first-generation students are far less likely to graduate than their continuing-generation peers are. Thus, low retention rates mean lost revenues; not financially, but instead, morally.

As such, this Center Live Briefing will draw attention to the academic border-crossing experiences of first-generation students and the many intersections that inform numerous first-generation journeys.  Applying the ethnic studies lens, Dr. Montoya discusses how he considers intersectional identities to best support all dimensions of students, particularly first-generation students.  Additionally, Dr. Montoya will share the innovative Professional Development Learning Community of faculty and staff at NAU.  This Learning Community has evolved over time from a book club, hands-on trainers and facilitators; certifying colleagues as first-generation allies, advocates and activists, creating and implementing an online class for faculty and staff, and establishing and hosting a national symposium for guiding first-generation student success.

Learning Outcomes

By attending this session, participants will:

  • understand approaches to implement and/or continue first-generation advocacy and engagement on college campuses,
  • examine first-generation advocacy and engagement amid hierarchies of power in academia, and
  • investigate the social and political realities of first-generation experiences through a borderlands perspective.
Member: $99 Other: $149
Course Length
60 minutes
Course Type
On Demand

Take This Course

Accessing the Presentation

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Once you complete your registration, you will be able to access the session under "My Online Events" in the NASPA Engagement Portal.

  • This is a recording of a past live session. You will find the session recordings to view or download under Contents - Session Recordings.

  • You may view the materials as many times as you'd like, at whatever pace you would like.

  • If you have any difficulty accessing the materials, please contact NASPA Online Professional Development (opd@naspa.org).

Go to "My Online Events"