Key to Student Success: Creating a Culture of First-gen Support

Nicole Battaglia, M.Ed., Seton Hall University / The Center / January 19, 2022

Each year, 25-30% of incoming students are welcomed into our first-generation Pirate family. Our President, Dr. Joseph E. Nyre, is also a proud first-generation college graduate and has long supported first-generation initiatives.

Creating a culture of support and pride has been instrumental in ensuring the success of our first-gen students. Our programs include the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP); Pre-Medical/Pre-Dental Plus Program (PMPDPP); the Resilience, Integrity, Scholarship, and Excellence (RISE) program; the First Generation Forward (Gen 1 program); and the Upward Bound program, which guides first-generation high school students to ensure college access. Additionally, students developed their own student organization to support their first-generation peers called the First-Gen Club.

The EOP and PMPDPP programs serve 255 first-generation students and provided many workshops and events last semester to support the personal and professional development of their students.

I like having more of an insight on how to adapt to college life. Different email writing, different ways of studying, coping with being independent, etc. I feel very prepared because of the college tips this has taught me.

During the Fall 2021 semester, staff and students in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) attended a weekend leadership retreat. Students focused on team building and learned about their personality/leadership style by participating in a True Colours Assessment.

Students in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) also participated in a day trip to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. During this outing, students learned about the rich history of Ellis Island and toured the grounds of the Statue of Liberty.

Most recently, Seton Hall has received a $750,000 grant to support first-generation students through the Opportunity Meets Innovation (OMI) Grant, designed to help expand our support to first-generation students even further. The First Generation Forward (Gen 1) program will provide a rebranded four-day summer bridge program this upcoming summer to assist both incoming first-generation and returning students with acclimating academically and socially to campus. Providing students with Gen 1 swag such as backpacks, notebooks, laptop stickers, and more will help them proudly display their first-gen status.

It allowed me to feel more prepared and confident in my abilities. I learned that I am not the only one feeling this way and that I'm not in this alone. I made a lot of great friends in the program who I hope to be close with for years to come!

Additional collaboration with faculty has also been critical in our efforts. We have five faculty members on our First Generation Forward committee assisting in expanding support to first-gen graduate students and developing workshops on “Best Practices in the classroom to support First-gen Students.”

What we think is most important in addition to programs is creating a first-gen culture on campus. This will allow students to know who to ask for help, that they should be proud of being first-generation, and are never alone on their journey. Go Pirates!

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