Helping Potentially At-Risk Students Succeed in Higher Education
Fourth Annual First Generation College Student Summit
Williamstown, MA, April 9 – The Fourth Annual First Generation College Student Summit brought nearly 200 college students together to share their experiences and discuss the challenges associated with succeeding in higher education as the first person in their family to attend college. The forum also generated lively discussions among first generation college students and faculty, student advisors, administrators, and diversity and inclusion staff on their campuses.
The Class Action-sponsored event was hosted this year by Williams College, with cohosting institutions from across New England. The summit kicked off with the opening ceremony at 9:15 a.m. at Bronfman Auditorium, Williams College, Williamstown MA 01267, Summit Schedule. Twitter feed with real-time content: @classismexposed; https://twitter.com/ClassismExposed.
The keynote speaker was Mary Hinton, PhD, president of the College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, Minn., who is herself a first generation college student. Dr. Hinton has spoken movingly about her small town North Carolina high school guidance counselor trying to dissuade her from being the first person in her family to attend college. She explained, “I was told that I shouldn’t be thinking about going to college and that as a black woman my only option would be the military.”
Building on the Class Action First Gen Student program, the annual summit supports the growth of a strong first-generation community across and among colleges and universities. It aims to increase the awareness and quality of services for first-generation students.
The summit also acknowledges the special challenges that first generation college students face. While 42% of students whose parents attended college graduated within four years, only 27% of first-generation students graduated within four years. And the numbers are 64% to 50% after six years. First generation students are often from less class privileged backgrounds and have financial hardships They may arrive with limited knowledge of what to expect, how to adjust, or who to contact with questions.
“The First Gen Student Summit is a space for students to meet, talk with, and connect with other first generation students for support, guidance and action to help ease the college experience for first gen students,” explained Class Action Executive Director Anne Phillips. “However, this summit is not about “fixing” first gen students or approaching them from the deficit model. It is designed to look at specific supports students need and explore how students can participate in transforming their campuses to better serve those needs.”
Students played a large role in the design and content of the summit, as members of the 2015-16 Planning Committee. All workshops – from The Struggle to Be First: Immigrant Edition to What We Didn’t Know We Needed to Know to Racism and Classism in the Classroom – were student led or co-led. The forum gave faculty and staff attending the opportunity to listen to and learn from the voices of first generation college students.
“The summit fit into Williams College’s existing framework of raising awareness and visibility of First Gen students, their experiences and what colleges should be doing to support their success,” commented Rosanna Reyes, Ed.D., associate dean of the college, who oversees First Generation Initiatives.
“Supporting First Gen students is an institutional priority, and hosting the summit was an extension of that commitment. Also, our students had the opportunity to interact with First Gen students from other colleges/universities to make meaningful connections and collaborate in the future.”
Cohosting the summit were Amherst College, Bridgewater State University, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke, University Without Walls at UMass Amherst, Wellesley College. Check out some pictures of the summit here.
Students attended from 30 institutions of higher education:
Amherst College, Boston University, Bridgewater State University, Colgate University, Connecticut College, Hampshire College, Lamar University, Macalester College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Merrimack College, Middlesex Community College, Mount Holyoke College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rutgers University Camden, Salem State University, School for International Training, Smith College, St. Michael’s College, SUNY Cortland, UMass Amherst – University Without Walls, University of Chicago, University of Connecticut, University of Florida, University of Maine Farmington, University of New Hampshire, Vassar College, Temple University, Tufts University, Williams College, Wellesley College.
About Class Action
As national nonprofit, Class Action provides a dynamic framework and analysis, as well as a safe space, for people of all backgrounds to identify and address issues of class and classism. It increases awareness of the widening chasm of social class inequality and the damage it does.
About Williams College
Established in 1793, Williams College is private, residential, and liberal arts, with graduate programs in the history of art and in development economics. The undergraduate enrollment is approximately 2,000 students with a student-faculty ratio of 7:1. Williams admits U.S. students without regard to their ability to pay. The college meets 100 percent of every admitted student’s demonstrated financial need for four years.