LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 24, 2018) —The University of Kentucky Student Services Center, part of Student and Academic Support, is launching the First-Generation Faculty/Staff Advocate Program in order to better serve first-generation students. Launched in mid-September, the program already has over 50 faculty and staff participants.
"The purpose of the First-Generation Faculty/Staff Advocate Program is to strategically target one of the largest cohorts on campus, first-generation students, by connecting them to faculty and staff at UK," said Robert Hayes, university director of the Student Services Center. "With around one in four to one in three undergraduate students being first-generation, it is imperative that we are intentional in our efforts to provide opportunities to get them engaged and connected to the university."
UK students are considered first-generation if neither parent earned a bachelor's degree. Of the fall 2018 entering class, 29 percent are first-generation students. The need for programs targeting them is higher than ever.
On a national scale, statistics surrounding first-generation students are staggering. First-generation students are disadvantaged across a myriad of variables. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, being a first-generation college student is one of the most often cited predictors of higher education failure. Beyond issues of retention and completion, many of these students face day-to-day challenges as they navigate social, academic, financial and administrative challenges.
"This program serves to engage first-gen students with faculty and staff around campus who have had similar experiences in their respective educational pursuits. Students who participate in this program will develop a network of support on campus, ideally positively impacting their retention rates," Hayes said."First-generation students will be able to successfully transition to and effectively engage in the academic discourse at the institution through their increasingly developed sense of belonging and engagement."
Creating a feeling of belonging is important for any student coming to the university, but especially when looking at statistics surrounding first-generation students. The college atmosphere is something completely new to them and also uncharted territory for their family. According to research, support received on campus can be more impactful to first-generation students than the support they are receiving from home. This new program aims to give them that support.
Along with the First-Generation Faculty/Staff Advocate Program, the university offers several other resources for first-generation students. Programs like the First-Generation Scholar Living Learning Community, First-Generation Student Advising and the Robinson and Pollard Scholarships are all in place to assist first-generation students with their transition from high school to college life at UK.
Although research shows that first-generation students face barriers when it comes to higher education, that does not mean that these students are not capable. Pairing the First-Generation Faculty/Staff Advocate Program with programs that are already in place to support first-generation students gives them the resources they need to succeed at UK.
Faculty or staff who are interested in being a part of the program may register here. Hayes wants faculty and staff to remember, "first-generation advocates can self-select their level of participation. Levels of participation include displaying a magnet to identify as a first-gen advocate; serving as a speaker or panel member for first-gen student events such as orientations, informational forums, dinners, etc.; sharing memories of being a first-generation student on our program website; and/or serving as a mentor."
While the hope is that faculty and staff who were first-generation college students themselves will register with the program, participation is open to any faculty or staff member interested in supporting this cohort.
UK’s First-Generation Faculty/Staff Advocate Program, part of the Student Services Center, is housed in 230 McVey Hall. Questions regarding the program can be directed to FirstGeneration@uky.edu or 859-257-6597.