Campus News

College of Communication and Information Sends First Generation Classes on Underground Railroad Excursion

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 22, 2014) — A group of 36 University of Kentucky students, part of first generation sections of the CIS 110 course, “Composition and Communication I,” recently took a journey through time, and through the Ohio Valley, to explore the history of the Underground Railroad. An award granted by the College of Communication and Information funded the expedition with the aim of supporting diversity-related projects and promoting inclusion.

First generation, or “1G,” students, and their instructors, Conrad Davies and Matthew Deffendall, visited the National Underground Railroad Museum in Maysville, Kentucky, then journeyed across the Ohio River to Ripley, Ohio, to the home of John Rankin. At his home, students walked the infamous steps from his house on the hill down to John Parker’s house on the waterfront; both were conductors on the Underground Railroad. The final stop was the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Three sections — those connected with the First Generation Initiative Living Learning Community — of the university’s CIS 110 courses attended the “Underground Railroad Excursion.” Afterward, students formed groups and submitted papers discussing the effects of the Underground Railroad on the current generation, what ethnic groups were most affected through this historical event, and how 1G students can "pay it forward" in times of adversity.

“First generation students are a population dear to my heart since I am a second-generation college student. I personally know the effect their decisions have on their own lives, along with the lives of their families, directly and indirectly,” said Davies, who is a CIS faculty lecturer for the Instructional Communication and Research division (ICR) within the College of Communication and Information.

A valuable experience to the topic of diversity and the course’s focus on communicating effectively through written formats, the excursion and accompanying assignment proved to achieve the college’s diversity award goals, and give a unique learning experience to the 1G students. The college consists of 220 1G students or 11.5 percent of the college’s student base. 

“Excursions like these are amazing learning opportunities; some of these students may never have the opportunity to experience something like this or even think to experience something like this,” Davies said.

Media Contact: Ann Blackford at 859-323-6442 or