University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty and staff are working throughout the fall semester on efforts to improve first-generation student success and degree completion in support of the campus’s First Scholar Institution designation by the Center for First-generation Student Success.
Their work kicked off this summer at a First Scholars Planning Summit in July, where participants were charged with priorities in four areas:
- Celebrations and Connections: Develop programmatic initiatives focused on first-generation student engagement.
- Communications: Develop communication plans to effectively grow visibility of first-generation students’ strengths and contributions and resources to support them.
- Policies and Procedures: Identify and address key issues related to retention and degree completion across academic and student affairs units that have negative impacts on the success of first-generation students.
- Faculty and Staff Development: Enhance and amplify existing and new efforts to expand faculty and staff expertise and opportunities for creating a validating campus environment for first-generation students.
To jump start these efforts, the group spent time learning how the use of data in daily decision making can help the development of equitable structures and systems that support first-generation students’ success.
They also heard from a panel of first-generation students who shared their campus experiences and spent time one-on-one with the working groups to answer questions specific to their charges.
“Hearing directly from first-generation students gave a whole new dimension and perspective to the important work we are doing,” said Amy Goodburn, senior associate vice chancellor and dean of undergraduate education. “Any time we have the opportunity to listen and interact directly with these students, we learn so much. It truly makes a difference in how we provide support for their success.”
A similar panel of students will be speaking at a faculty symposium on Nov. 10 during National First-Gen Week. Faculty who are interested in learning more about how they can support first-generation students can hear their stories and attend mini-sessions focused on:
- first-generation pedagogical and instructional strategies
- resources and programs for first-generation students
- course equity dashboards for instructors.
The Faculty Symposium: Supporting First-generation Students event, hosted by the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor, will be held from 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Willa Cather Dining Complex, Red Cloud Suite. Light refreshments will be provided. Faculty can register online.
First Scholars Planning Summit participants will meet throughout the semester to develop plans that recommend actions in the four key areas and present their work at a follow-up summit in January. This work will be used to transform the first-generation student experience, advance academic and co-curricular outcomes, and build more inclusive institutional structures within UNL and across the First Scholars network of institutions.