Supporting First-gen Students in Times of Need

Lanel Love, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University Carbondale / The Center / November 04, 2020

With this blog entry from Southern Illinois University (SIU) Carbondale, our hope is to share how we are supporting first-generation students as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, their academic obstacles, and challenges to their well-being.

As an institution that serves first-generation students via the First Saluki Center (first generation center) and TRIO programs such as McNair Scholars, Project Upward Bound, and Student Support Services, we recognize first-generation students’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic such as financial hardships, sense of belonging, and engagement at SIU Carbondale. We would like to recognize two initiatives that are addressing first-generation student’s mental and physical health.

First Saluki Center in Collaboration with SIU Carbondale Counseling and Psychological Services
Weekly 1st Saluki Virtual Lunch Table Initiative

This initiative addresses weekly topics related to self-care and resilience for first-generation students. The idea behind these topics are about staying connected with other first-generation students in a time of great anxiety due to sociopolitical stress. SIU Carbondale’s hope is that although our sociopolitical atmosphere now is fraught with stress, anxiety, and sometimes anger, we can still stay connected with ourselves and each other by discussing ways we can all help each other stay strong, stay safe, and stay connected.

The Diversity & Inclusion Mental Health Fund, created by Black Affairs Council, an SIU Carbondale registered student organization
Free Counseling Mental Health Initiative

The Black Affairs Council, a registered student organization whose mission is to address Cultural, Social, Educational and Political concerns of Black students at SIU Carbondale and within the local community, created a mental health initiative to raise enough money to provide students on SIU Carbondale’s campus with free counseling/therapy sessions in collaboration with SIU Carbondale Saluki Health Center. The goal of this initiative is to help first-generation students and those from marginalized groups receive highly trained, multiculturally competent counselors who are passionate about providing a safe and affirming counseling experience to the diverse student body at SIU. This initiative is funded by several departments and groups on campus.

As a First-gen Forward institution, SIU Carbondale engages in systematic and integrated planning. With decreasing state support and delayed state-wide higher education appropriations, SIU remains committed to its first-generation students and mission despite the challenges it has faced. We are allocating more resources and expanding mental health services to first-generation students to overcome challenges to foster first gen student success.

For more information on Southern Illinois University Carbondale's approach, please visit their website here.