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One Year Strong: Celebrating the First Scholars Program at Iowa State University

Jordan Brooks, Christi Kampen, Robert Lipsey, Allison Severson, Iowa State University / The Center / June 14, 2024

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Welcome to the First Scholars community at Iowa State University! If you’re reading this, you’re either a first-generation student or someone who cares about one, and you’ve come to the right place. In this blog, authors will share a brief overview of the Center for Student Educational Success program, highlights from the inaugural year, and plans for the second year.

What’s the First Scholars Program?

The First Scholars Program is designed to support first-generation and low-income eligible students, by curating events and services to help them achieve academically, socially, and professionally. Students who participate in the first scholars program receive direct academic support through tutoring, academic coaching, and embedded supplemental instruction. Participants get priority when applying for book scholarships and Senior Completion Grants to ensure that students on the precipice of graduation are not limited to due to a lack of resources.

Our offices host workshops on financial wellness, time management, and stress relief that are tailored to first-generation students. Programs, workshops, and spaces are designed to be rich in relationship-building potential, with the knowledge that those relationships are crucial to college completion.

During our LinkedIn series, students learned how to market themselves in this digital age and had the opportunity to take free professional headshots and graduation photos. Additionally, career exploration and readiness, leadership development, and graduate school preparation were focused on during the series.

Highlights from the first year of the Center for Student Educational Success:

1. Senior Completion Grants: 65 Senior Completion Grants were awarded, totaling nearly $98,000. 70% of recipients stated if these funds had not been available, they might not have made it to graduation.

2. Book Scholarships: 100 book scholarships of $300 each were handed out.

3. Virtual Community: Over 300 students joined our First Scholars virtual community, connecting with peers and mentors online.

4. Caps and Gowns Collection: 40 graduation caps and gowns were collected to make them available to future graduates. The committee doing this work identified this as an area of financial stress for our students and collecting donations created a sustainable way to alleviate that stress.

5. National First-Gen Student Celebration Day: Committee members and campus partners hosted the first-ever celebratory banquet with university president, Wendy Wintersteen, and Dean of Students, Sharron Evans.

6. Career Conference in Miami: A group of our students attended the Circle of Change conference in Miami, where they networked, explored leadership, and even walked away with scholarships!

Moving forward, staff working on this initiative have planned welcome events in a new space opening in the Memorial Union in August 2024. This space will contain study rooms, computer labs, and lounge spaces. This space exists in one of the student-centered spaces on the Iowa State University campus and will serve as a hub for students to build community, study, and access resources.

For more information on Iowa State University's approach, please visit their website here.