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Empowering First-Generation Students: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi's Journey of Support and Success

Jerel Benton, D'Angelo Sands, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi / The Center / May 16, 2024

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi NM Blog first-gen student

In the sphere of higher education, the journey of first-generation college students is often marked by unique challenges and inspiring triumphs. At Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMU-CC), recognizing and nurturing this distinctive student demographic has become a cornerstone of our institutional mission. Over the past two years, TAMU-CC has embarked on a transformative journey to intensify its support for first-generation college students, a testament to our commitment to student success and equal access to education.

The foundational step in this journey was our partnership with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities. Through this collaboration, TAMU-CC became a participant in the Student Success Equity Intensive (SSEI). This multiyear cohort experience has been instrumental in accelerating transformation at TAMU-CC. It empowers us to make data-informed decisions and achieve success goals tailored specifically to the needs of our first-generation students.

One of the primary objectives of our engagement in SSEI was to develop and scale support for this group. Our efforts have been multi-faceted and deeply impactful. They include:

1. Revamping the First Islander Scholars Academy Curriculum: A cornerstone of our support system is the First Islander Scholars Academy, a mentoring program specifically designed for first-generation students. We took a critical step by redesigning its curriculum to focus more on academic and financial support, alongside fostering a sense of belonging. This approach ensures that as our students progress through their academic journey, they feel supported, valued, and connected.

2. Scaling Up the First Gen Week Program: The First Gen Week program at TAMU-CC has seen significant growth, enhancing its visibility and campus-wide collaboration. Engaging over 300 students, this program serves as a beacon of belongingcelebration and awareness, acknowledging the unique experiences and contributions of first-generation students.

3. Establishing the First-Gen Advisory Board: Perhaps one of our most strategic initiatives has been the launch of the new First-Gen Advisory Board. This cross-divisional group plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of our campus community. It offers valuable insights and perspectives on the unique experiences of first-generation students, thus being instrumental in identifying and implementing initiatives to enhance the overall college experience.

Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi NM Blog First-gen Merch
These initiatives have resulted in tangible improvements in the support system for first-generation students at TAMU-CC. But what truly sets our efforts apart is the underlying philosophy of empowerment and belonging. We believe that providing support to first-generation students isn't just about academic or financial assistance; it's about creating an environment where our students can see themselves as an integral, celebrated part of the university community.

This holistic approach has been the key to our success. By focusing on not just the academic but also the social and emotional needs of first-generation students, we have been able to create a more welcoming and supportive environment. This is evidenced by increased participation in our programs and more importantly, in the positive feedback we have received from students.

For more information on Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi's approach, please visit their website here.