Faculty and staff from across the UofSC Columbia campus are answering a call to assist students who are making history. These trailblazers are the first generation of their families to attend college.
Men and women who are first-generation college students are unique and experience a number of challenges navigating through the college experience that other peers do not. That’s why Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate StudiesSandra Kelly, Ph.D. is asking faculty and staff to self-identify as a First-Generation College Graduates by wearing a lapel pins or placing stickers on their office windows to identify themselves.
Several faculty have already signed up including Murray F. Mitchell, Ph.D., professor
and senior associate dean at The Graduate School. “Given neither of my parents finished
high school, I am impressed by their commitment to helping their children have a better
chance at an enriched future. While I had two older brothers who went on to attend
university after high school, I did not have more than moral support from my parents
to navigate the demands of this new level of schooling. I also did not have the study
habits conducive to being successful. There are also more support mechanisms available
than when I was in school. Finding those resources and taking advantage of what is
available, however, is a challenge in itself. That said, I went on to two advanced
degrees at other schools after obtaining my baccalaureate,” says Mitchell.
Of the 2018-19 UofSC incoming class, more than 19 percent identified themselves as first-generation college students. Data tracking of these students indicates without the appropriate level of support, these students are more likely to not finish college.
My discovery, that the “world of opportunity” was much bigger and far more complex than my neighborhood, was incredibly overwhelming.
G. Nathan Carnes, Ph.D.
College of Education associate professor G. Nathan Carnes, Ph.D., explains how he felt as a first- generation college student, “My discovery, that the “world of opportunity” was much bigger and far more complex than my neighborhood, was incredibly overwhelming. That feeling dissipated as I sought guidance and advice from individuals who had trodden further down the path of excellence. The boldness to ask questions can avert underachievement and/or intellectual disasters.”
Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Studies Sandra Kelly, Ph.D., points out that: “When faculty and staff take the initiative to identify themselves as First Generation College Graduates, they open the door to meaningful discussions and a mentoring relationship with our First Generation students. While all students benefit enormously from mentoring, this group of students are less likely to find a mentor.”
Chair of the Department of History Christine Caldwell Ames, Ph.D., shares her own college experiences. “In my own experience as a first-generation university student, I definitely would have appreciated encountering more faculty and fellow students with this background. I didn't know another First Gen until my junior year! It's my hope that by faculty like me identifying ourselves, both first-gen students at UofSC, and indeed all students, will recognize how common our experience is.”
First-Generation Celebration Day is Nov. 8 and UofSC Trio Program is planning a panel of faculty and staff to discuss the First-Generation Student Experience and also an outreach to this great group of students. First-Generation Celebration Day was designated by the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) and the Center for First-generation Student Success.
If you would like to self-identify as a First-Generation College Graduate, register on our website.