Launching a First-generation Campaign

Marlowe Daly-Galeano & Traci Birdsell, Lewis-Clark State College / The Center / November 01, 2023

Lewis-Clark State College Student

Lewis-Clark State College is new to the First Scholars Network, but we’re not new to serving the first-generation students who make up the majority of our population. As a small public four-year institution enrolling students primarily from rural communities in Idaho and surrounding states, our college’s administration, staff, and faculty have long recognized the needs of first-generation students. Many of our faculty and staff are first-generation students themselves, including four out of our five administrators at the level of vice-president and above. Overall, we’re doing a pretty good job of relating to our first-generation students, providing them with models for success, and meeting their unique needs, because this is woven into the fabric of how we provide a quality education for the individuals we serve.

What is new for us, though, as we embark on our First Scholars Network journey, is thinking about how we can unify the practices we are already doing and make sure that our campus sees itself as a first-generation serving community. Our challenge, then, has been in creating a more unified, cohesive, and visible first-generation campaign. We want every member of campus to be able to recognize and communicate that we are focused on first-generation student success and to understand the programming we are implementing to ensure that success.


What We’ve Already Done

Prior to joining the First Scholars Network, Traci was already involved with a number of programs designed to recognize, honor and meet the needs of our first-generation students. Some of our past work has included:

1. Providing “I’m First” pins to first-generation students to wear on the graduation stoles.

2. Hosting events for First-Generation College Celebration Day including distributing “I’m First Gen” stickers to students and staff.

3. Attending the First-Generation Experience Summit hosted by Idaho Association of TRIO Professionals.

4. Supporting first-generation students with campus resources like tutoring, clubs and organizations, counseling, and wellness activities.


What We’re Doing Now 
Lewis-Clark State College Student Group

In joining the First Scholars Network, we (Traci and Marlowe) have partnered in working toward a more unified campaign. As the Director of the Center for Teaching and Learning, Marlowe is working to bring more faculty into conversations about supporting first-generation students. At the Center for Teaching and Learning, we’re expanding our programming to include:

  •  Hosting a welcome back session at the CTL, “Introducing First Scholars: Teaching Our First-Generation Students”
  • Developing a Canvas module for faculty with resources for teaching first-generation students
  • Building a group of faculty with special interests in supporting first-generation students
  • Expanding First-Generation College Celebration Day into a week of programming that will include a panel presentation and live screenings of Center Online Learning virtual events

We have several events planned for First-Generation College Celebration Day including screening two NASPA trainings with staff, students, and faculty: “Exploring the Ways Jargon Influences College Access & Success for First-generation College Students” and “A Balancing Act: Faculty and First-Gen Faculty.” We will also host a first-generation panel including a member of the administration, faculty, and two students.

 This year we are also taking on the task of listing who are the first-generation staff and faculty on campus. Our goal is to create and have displayed “I’m First-Gen” stickers or placards in offices so students can readily find first-generation mentors and supporters and, more importantly, feel a stronger sense of belonging at the institution.


The Questions We’re Asking

As we work to amplify programming that supports our first-generation students, we have some questions. First, we seek to better understand how well our efforts are reaching every member of the campus community. Are there ways that we can make our message into a true campaign, a campaign that is clear and visible? How do we convey to our students, to our faculty, and to our staff that we care deeply about first-generation students and are invested in their success? We continue to look for the best ways to communicate this message. How do we keep our messaging timely and relevant? In a time when so many of us already have many events to attend, how do we create and promote events that make a difference? What should we be doing that goes beyond event planning and into structural approaches? How do we create verbal and visual messaging that make clear to everyone that LC State is a community where first-generation students can thrive?

When describing their experience as a first-generation student, one student commented, “Not only did I want something better for my life, but I also kind of wanted to prove to my family that you can become something more than just what my family is. I knew that it was only up to me and no one else would be there to… like it was just me doing the work.” We know that we need to keep asking the right questions so that we can ensure that our first-generation students’ voices resonate through the campus. We have the momentum and the support right now to launch this campaign, and we look forward to seeing how it shapes our campus culture.

For more information on Lewis-Clark State College's approach, please visit their website here.