Launching A First-Generation Student Advisory Group at Santa Fe College
Naima Brown, Santa Fe College / The Center / February 15, 2023
In the fall of 2022, Santa Fe College launched the First-Generation Student Advisory Group (FGSAG) to centralize the student voice. This blog details the processes, successes, and challenges of establishing the student leadership group.
Our first step was to identify staff members who were first-generation college graduates and had the interest, and capacity, to work with the FGSAG. The Student Affairs Leadership Team enthusiastically recommended staff from Admissions, Advising, Financial Aid, International Student Support & Advising as well as the SSS TRIO programs. In hindsight, first-generation faculty and staff from Academic Affairs should have been included.
Next, we put out a call for administrators and staff from every area of the college to nominate exceptional student employees who were first-generation college students. The request was limited to on-campus student employees so that FGSAG involvement could be compensated, increasing the likelihood that the group would have consistent engagement and limited attrition. Even more importantly, members would know that their work on the FGSAG was just as valuable as other work.
Each nominee’s supervisor was then asked if they would be willing to allow four hours of the student employee’s work to be assigned to the activities of the new FGSAG. There was 100% agreement by all supervisors contacted!
With a diverse pool of students in terms of race/ethnicity, age, program of study, and veteran status, each student was contacted by email and invited to join the group. The email explained that they had been nominated and provided an overview of the responsibilities. Specifically, FGSAG members:
• Meet monthly with college officials;
• Represent the voice of first-generation students at Santa Fe College;
• Share experiences, ideas, and advice;
• Promote college services and activities to other first-generation students; and
• Participate in first-generation programming, activities, and campus events.
The email also outlined the lunch meeting schedule and assured students that their supervisors supported them taking on the role with pay. The overwhelming majority of students accepted, but a few students declined, and one student was interested but had class during the time of the monthly meetings. We learned from this to check class schedules BEFORE sending invitations.
In a very short period, the newly established FGSAG has had several successes. The group created a video which helps our college community better understand the experiences of first-generation students. Additionally, the FGSAG played a huge role in planning and hosting the first First-Gen Day at Santa Fe. Finally, the group gave input on the first-generation t-shirt design, the college’s webpage for first-generation students, and first-generation recognition cords for graduation.
Despite the successes, a few challenges need to be addressed. Moving forward, we must ensure that:
• Faculty/Staff in Academic Affairs are invited to work directly with the FGSAG
• Meeting times are not a barrier to participation
• Group members can serve two terms (two group members graduated in December),
• Adequate funding is available to support creative proposals for engagement (budget constraints limited the group)