Critical conversation encourages first generation students

To create an open dialogue of experiences and awareness of first generation college students, Critical Conversation Series #2: #Gen1MSU was held on Oct. 16 at the Legacy Multipurpose Room. Hosted by the office of equity, inclusion, and multicultural affairs, Syreeta Green notified the audience that #Gen1MSU, the topic’s official title, was a real hashtag with a purpose.

“If you hear something that catches your attention, go ahead tweet it out, instagram it, whatever you want to use,” Syreeta Green, the director of equity, inclusion and multicultural affairs, said.

By using social media as a device to transfer ideas, Green also wants the hashtag to be used beyond the one hour program.

“Make sure to retweet, repost and add the hashtag if you are doing something special for first generation college students or think it is a good resource for them,” she said.

While the definition of a first generation college student varies, Green used the definition given by the department of education: a student whose parents did not earn a bachelor’s degree.

According to Lisa Estrada-Hamby, director of student support services, the definition included students whose parents were in the process of earning a bachelors degree.

“So even if your parent may be in school,” Estrada-Hamby said, “you can still be considered a first generation student and participate in programs like Priddy scholars.”

Due to poor resources, Estrada-Hamby was unaware of FAFSA and had to work her way through school. If she had known about FAFSA, paying for college would have been less stressful.

“I knew I would have qualified, my family was low income,” she said.

Kristen Garrison, associate vice president of undergraduate education and assessment, was not a first generation college student, but she has experienced student success gaps in the classroom, and shared an example during her time as an adjunct professor.

“I hand out the syllabus, talked a little bit about myself, what my interests are and very brief mention regarding my office hours.” Garrison said. “After class, a student came up and said, ‘what are office hours? and she was a first generation college student.”

According to Garrison, that knowing terms like office hours or syllabus have been taken for granted.

“From a faculty perspective we just incorrectly assume that our students know those things and it’s one of those things Dr. Green said, to be transparent, we have to decode that for our students” Kristen Garrison, associate vice president of undergraduate education and assessment.

Shelbi Stogdill, political science and history freshman, was chosen to speak on behalf of Priddy Scholars, a new program created this fall to serve first generation college students. She likes how the participants in the program are exposed to more opportunities, like more resources we get to know about all of them.

“I think it’s really good that first generation students learn more about how to get involved and how to utilize their resources to be more successful in college.”


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