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First-Generation Faculty and Staff Serve as Mentors for First-Generation Students in Trailblazer Mentoring Program

Kay Angrove, Sam Houston State University / The Center / June 13, 2024

Sam Houston State University Spring Resume Workshop

First-generation students at Sam Houston State University (SHSU) find a sense of belonging as they participate in the Trailblazer Faculty/Staff Mentor Program. The program matches first-generation students with first-generation faculty and staff who have successfully navigated the university experience and have specialized knowledge and connections at Sam Houston State University. Participating in the Trailblazer Program affords first-generation students the opportunity to learn from a mentor’s leadership and benefit from the support of our First-Generation Center.

First-generation students interested in connecting with a mentor complete a questionnaire to express interests, goals, and qualities they would like to see in their mentor.

“Most students request a mentor who is affiliated with a specific college major, or an area of interest to the student. Other students just want a person with experience and connections at the university who can be their “go to” as a resource on campus”, said Jose Herrera, Director of the program. “The Trailblazer Mentoring Program has been instrumental in broadening my scientific knowledge. With the guidance and resources my mentors gave me, I've delved deeper into the world of science, empowering me to pursue my academic passions with confidence and expertise. I’m grateful for the opportunities and connections it’s provided!”, said one Trailblazer mentee.

Faculty and staff complete a similar questionnaire. Director Herrera then matches faculty and students each semester based on similar interests. Trailblazer students and their mentors meet a minimum of two to three times a semester to talk about student progress, questions, campus job opportunities, internship preparation, and scholarships available. Faculty and staff mentors also attend campus social events with their mentees, hosted by the First-Generation Center.

Sam Houston State University Trailblazer
This spring 2024, Trailblazer students and mentors asked for additional support in the form of workshops covering topics specific to the student Trailblazer suggestions and interests. Thus, Trailblazer Milestone Events were created. The first of several requested workshop topics included time management, self-advocacy, and effective resume writing. Workshops were optional and casual. As an incentive to attend, students who participated qualified for scholarship drawings at each event. Workshops were presented by staff and faculty who represented resources on campus, further connecting students to professionals and resources to expand student networks of success.

Being first-generation is something to be extremely proud of at Sam Houston State University. Faculty and staff are encouraged to add a “Proud to be First-Generation” tagline to their email signatures, and to display “First-Generation Faculty/Staff” signs in their office windows so first-generation students can recognize the size and strength of our first-generation community.

At Sam Houston State University over half of all students are first generation. The First-Generation Center at SHSU, established in June 2022, is dedicated to helping first-generation students and their families navigate their university experience. We provide services and support to the university’s student population, over half of whom are first-generation students. To learn more about first-generation efforts at SHSU visit the First-Generation Center’s webpage.

For more information on Sam Houston State University's approach, please visit their website here.