Ending the First-generation Student Status

Rochelle D. Plummer, M.S., M.A., Shippensburg University / The Center / March 31, 2021

Shippensburg University (SU) is committed to ending the first-generation student status. As we work intentionally, strategically, and collaboratively to support our first-generation students, we aid them in reaching their goal of completion thereby eliminating the first-generation status for their families since their next generation would be continuing-generation students. By providing access to resources for our first-generation students on campus, we create pathways of opportunity so they can be successful and earn their four-year college degree. As a first-generation student, and now a first-generation professional, I understand the impact (financially, academically, and intellectually) that having a higher education makes for my family and me. I want that same positive impact for the students and families who attend SU. That is why the Office for Students First was established and is committed to first-generation student success.

This spring semester we, once again, look forward to celebrating the first-generation graduates at our University. Our Class of 2021, like many other students, have shown resilience, dedication, and courage in continuing their education through the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have supported them every step along the way. Specifically, we utilized retention funds to offer financial assistance and cover tuition gaps, textbooks, and school supplies. Our staff quickly pivoted from in-person to virtual appointments, and we added innovative engagement activities, such as a social media morning show that provided daily tips, weekly podcasts on “Persistence”, and COVID-19-focused sessions where students connect and share experiences were added. However, we understand the real work transpired for our students who struggled with various barriers from finding a quiet space at home for remote learners to navigating courses online. The Class of 2021 has pressed forward for over one year of academics in a pandemic world. We are proud of all our students, and we acknowledge that our first-generation student population, on average, has had additional challenges that they worked to overcome. We congratulate these first-generation students and will recognize them on April 27 during our virtual graduation celebration. Congratulations first-generation Class of 2021!

As for our remaining first-generation students, we look forward to finishing this semester Raider strong and preparing for Fall 2021. We see your tenacity, and we are here for you. We encourage all first-generation students, no matter what institution they attend, to stay the course: take it day-by-day, acknowledge small feats, and encourage themselves along the way. The high road is never easy, and at times, students may grow weary. Keep going! The end becomes clearer with each step taken forward. For Shippensburg University students, our staff and faculty are always only a call or email away. Take charge of your academic career, and do not hesitate to reach out, as we are committed to our students. Our promise is that we will remain engaged and supportive, and through our combined efforts, we will achieve equitable student success, which leads to graduation. Together we will end the first-generation status for our first-generation students’ families, making those to come continuing-generation students.

For more information on Shippensburg University’s approach, please visit their website here.