University of California Pairs First Generation College Students With Profs Who Were First Generation College Students

Porter_College,_entrance,_UCSCI have often thought about writing a book about my experience as a first-generation college student and how the study of history and the humanities opened my mind to a world of ideas and learning about the world that I never knew existed.  I would imagine that such a book would also focus on my faith journey–a journey that was intricately wed to my process of intellectual discovery and my entrance into the middle class.  If there is a publisher out there who might be interested I would be happy to chat.

I think it is important that first-generation college students in the humanities tell their stories. As more and more such students enter our colleges and universities they need to hear from folks who struggled with some of the same things they will be struggling with, especially if they are trying to convince family members (and themselves) why a degree in history has great potential for getting them where they want to go.

I thought about this again when I read Colleen Flaherty’s article at Inside Higher Ed on a program for first-generation college students at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The university will be pairing first-generation college students with faculty members who were also first-generation college students.

Here is a taste:

Rebecca Covarrubias, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, didn’t plan on being a professor. She wasn’t even sure she’d attend college. Her Phoenix-area family was tight-knit and supportive, but no one at home had attended college before her, and Covarrubias was mostly focused on making money after high school. Yet she applied to the University of Arizona because her friends were doing it, got a full scholarship based on her academic record and decided to take the opportunity.

Once Covarrubias got to campus, she wasn’t sure how to “do” college, either. She didn’t attend office hours or attempt to connect with professors because she didn’t know that was important.

She learned, of course. But years later, Covarrubias is trying to help make college a little easier for first-generation students as the Santa Cruz campus faculty lead on the University of California’s systemwide First-Gen Faculty campaign.

The initiative, which encourages instructors on campus to identify themselves via T-shirts, buttons and other means as the first in their families to graduate from a four-year institution, starts next week during Santa Cruz’s Student Success Week. Fifty-four professors have signed on so far, along with dozens other faculty supporters.

Systemwide, some 800 faculty participants are expected to wear First-Gen Faculty shirts and share their experiences with their students across nine undergraduate campuses during the first week of classes this fall.

Read the entire piece.