It Takes A Village
James Stukes, Wofford College / The Center / January 25, 2023
Spartanburg, South Carolina is home to seven institutions of higher education offering a variety of opportunities for students to earn college degrees and certifications. Support for first-generation college students can be found at some level on each respective campus with many of the professionals who support this aggregation being acquainted with one another. In April 2023, Wofford College’s Office of Student Success hosted a Spartanburg First-generation Luncheon was a way to bring all these collective minds together to make additional introductions, build relationships, and discuss ways to further advance support for first-generation college students within the city.
The event was a collection of departments and programs such as TRIO, student success, diversity and inclusion not to mention that the various college types of private, public, four-year, and two-year. Representatives from Converse University, Presbyterian College, Spartanburg Academic Movement (SAM), Spartanburg Community College, Spartanburg Methodist College, University of South Carolina Upstate (USC Upstate), and Wofford College were able to learn about the cultures of each other’s campus while engaging in dialogue revolving around challenges, opportunities, and best practices in supporting first-generation college students. “The First-generation luncheon was an exciting space in pursuit of collectively supporting first-generation students in Spartanburg. To be in community across multiple institutions provided moments to strategize about uniting our resources, knowledge, and expertise, to empower first-generation students with the tools to overcome barriers, thrive academically, and pave the way for their success. Our collaborative efforts can be a transformative force in expanding greater opportunities and empowerment for first-gen students to fulfill their dreams and shape a brighter future for all.” – Ms. Caitlynn Myer, Associate Director for Intercultural Engagement and Education, USC Upstate.
Some key takeaways from the luncheon include:
• Acknowledging and analyzing the various intersectionalities and roles of first-gen students
• Breaking stigmas and rewriting narratives on the first-gen identity
• Career explanation and post-graduate planning
• Building upon external and internal partnerships
Since the luncheon, the convening group has been in constant communication sharing ideas and opportunities. Additionally, there are plans to meet throughout the academic year to seek collaborative possibilities such as events during first-generation celebration week and future luncheons. At a November 2022 City Council meeting, the city of Spartanburg issued a proclamation recognizing and celebrating the achievements of local first-gen college students. Staff and first-gen students from Converse University, Spartanburg Methodist College, and Wofford College attended the meeting and received the proclamation on behalf of the mayor.
Additionally, most of the participants are first-generation college graduates which allowed for discussions on past college experiences while seeking solutions for current first-gen students. The group is excited to continue these valuable conversations all for the empowerment of first-gen students within the area.