Ensuring the Success of First-Generation Students: Strategies for Increasing Direct and Campus-wide Impact
Thursday, June 9th • 09.00 AM – 12.00 PM
The mission of the Suder Foundation is to dramatically improve the graduation rate of first-generation college students via a four-year holistic student success program - First Scholars®. We also facilitate collaboration among our network of affiliated universities. One effort supported teams of higher ed professionals in developing and piloting scalable strategies to effect the success of greater numbers of first-generation students. This workshop highlights four initiatives and shares best practices for implementation and delivery.
To improve the graduation rate of first-generation college students, The Suder Foundation operates our signature student support program, First Scholars, in partnership with six affiliated four-year public universities across the country. However, there are many more first-generation students than First Scholars can serve. In an effort to scale supports to these students, we collaborated with student affairs professionals, faculty, and administrators at our university affiliates to develop and pilot four strategic initiatives. Three of these strategies are student focused (Workshops, Strengths Programming, First-Gen Living Learning Communities). The fourth offers Professional Development to various populations of campus personnel, educating them on the issues and potential of first-generation college students, outlining best practices for better serving this student population, and suggesting methods for catalyzing greater campus awareness and support.
It is reported that first-generation college students often lack the cultural capital about higher education when compared with their peers, whose parents have a college degree. Their learning curve may be steeper related to things such as study time or financial management, availability of student services on campus, and how best to approach a faculty member, etc. With this in mind, the student-focused strategic initiatives emphasize learning practical skills such as time management or study skills, learning about and appreciating one’s strengths and using them accordingly, and creating opportunities for social engagement with other first-generation peers. The Professional Development initiative targets college personnel serving first-generation college students. A working group created a Toolkit containing workshops and exercises directed at specific populations: graduate teaching assistants/fellows, faculty, staff, and administrators. The information to be shared highlights methods for bridging the gaps in social and cultural capital that first-generation students face and suggests ways for campus personnel to effectively raise awareness and increase institutional support for first-generation students.
This preconference workshop is interactive. Initially, it will provide an overview of each strategic initiative and then address one or two aspects of each in-depth. Practitioners from our affiliate campuses will share best practices and lessons learned from their respective campus engagement with first-generation students and with their campus peers. Participants will walk away with an understanding of three strategies for directly impacting the success of first-generation students and how those methods can be implemented at their home institution. In addition, participants will learn about successful practices for increasing awareness and institutionalizing support for first-generation students.
- This workshop will inform participants about the cultural capital gaps and strengths that first-generation college students present with.
- Participants will learn best practices for the engagement, retention, and graduation of first-generation college students.
- Participants will gain an understanding of how faculty/staff can benefit from on-going professional development regarding the needs of first-gen students and how to leverage this information to change institutional culture.