Following Your Nose To Success!
Russ Smith M.A., Hofstra University / The Center / October 16, 2019
Last year (fall 2018), Hofstra University launched the First Generation Student Living Learning Community. Programming consists of social and educational programming conducted by the Resident Assistants, the Faculty in Residence (who live in the first-gen LLC), the Residence Life Central Staff, and by the First Gen Pride Committee, as well as a group of faculty, staff, and administrators.
We were struck by both the literature on homesickness and feeling of isolation experienced by first-year, first-gen students, as well as our own experiences as students. These factors were major contributors to our goals of making a new home for first-gen students, that felt as much like the communities they came from as possible. One way we sought to create a community of interconnectedness was the creation of the monthly First Gen Family Dinner, which has become our signature program. It’s also no coincidence that these dinners occur on Thursday evenings at 6:30pm, before many of our students choose to go out for the evening and engage in activities for which a full stomach may be beneficial.
We hope we are creating a home away from home that truly feels like home.
Each month, we invite a guest “chef” from our institution to cook a meal that they would make for their own family right in the house kitchen, Residence Life covers the grocery budget. We invite the guest chefs to bring their children and partners. Also, we identify a “sous chef” - another person from the institution that we feel first-gen students would benefit from interaction with. Our chefs are instructed to come dressed comfortably, and to expect an informal dinner environment where they will eat and mingle with students. Cooking begins typically around 5pm, and for the next hour-and-a-half, students follow their noses into the lounge to see what’s cooking. There’s no better way to advertise for our dinners!
This past year, we’ve hosted nine dinners with guest chefs including the Provost, Vice President of Student Affairs, Assistant Vice Presidents of Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Deans of Academic Advising, the Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Director of Intercultural Engagement and Inclusion, Financial Aid Officers, Director of Residential Operations, Director of the First Year Experience, the Faculty in Residence, and other popular faculty members. Each dinner is attended by the Associate Director and Director of Residence Life. Now in our second year, and because the family dinners are open to all first-generation community members on campus, we are seeing students who previously lived in the house to return for family dinners which has influenced organic networking and mentoring relationships.
With this informal setting it is our hope that students and our chefs are able to create strong connections and bridge the gap between students and those who otherwise wear suits and have big titles. It is because of these dinners, first-gen students will be fearless in growing these connections with those individuals at the institution, helping them to be as successful as possible. We hope we are creating a home away from home that truly feels like home.
To learn more about first-gen initiatives at Hofstra University visit: http://www.hofstra.edu/firstgen.