Wednesday, March 19, 2014

First-generation college students face hurdles but are able to make the grade

By public relations student writer Megan Valentine

Making the leap from high school to the college atmosphere is an intimidating process for even the most confident and prepared individuals. The huge amount of discipline required to succeed in an academic environment that places an emphasis on independent study, combined with new financial burdens and social situations, can make for a stressful transition.

Those with parents who earned a college degree have the empathy and support of another individual who has experienced the similar experiences, and they tend to be a bit more prepared for the new world they are encountering. First-generation students, on the other hand, typically have little direction when it comes time to make the big decision, making the challenges even more daunting.


On the Chillicothe Campus, where many learners are first-generation students, the goal is to position them for college success.

In an article published by “The Chronicle of Higher Education,” this group of students is referred to
Jamie Harmount sees first generation students as pioneers.
as pioneers. (Article:

“I [think] that the term "pioneer" [is] very appropriate. These first-generation college students are starting a future educational path for siblings and their own children. They are braving the unknown as would a pioneer in a strange land,” says early education faculty member Jamie Harmount, a first-generation student herself.


There are a variety of areas where these students can be at a disadvantage compared to their peers. Michael Lafreniere, mathematics and environmental engineering faculty member, has noticed that
Michael Lafreniere is focused on helping students succeed.
time allocation and creating study routines are often an issue, resulting in grades that do not accurately reflect the abilities of the students.

“I personally help students avoid this hard reality by incorporating a mastery approach that affords some a slow start and a chance to get their priorities with time in order. The key is early and frequent communication with me as their instructor. I, as well as all of our faculty members, want to help students succeed,” says Lafreniere.

“Some of the first generation students do not have family or social support. Their families wonder why students need time and energy to complete assignments and attend activities to promote
Barbara Mahaffey understands students' special demands.
experiential learning,” says associate professor and coordinator of the human services technology program Barbara Mahaffey of another major challenge that she has noted.

According to Harmount, the students are not the only ones who have trouble with this transition.

“I believe that parents of first-generation college students also face challenges. Some of the parents may not know how to help their child maneuver the higher educational pathway. Most parents will be encouraging but may not know how to support their child in adjusting to college.”

Understanding these dynamics, the Chillicothe Campus has programs in place to help these students, as well as any students who may be struggling, find their footing in college.


OU-C’s Student Advising Center allows faculty to alert them of any individuals who may be experiencing issues adjusting to their new academic settings. The Advising Center is then able to immediately reach out to the student and offer guidance or assistance. The Chillicothe Campus also incorporates discussions about understanding professional concerns and ethical behaviors in the lectures of certain courses and sometimes offers family activities so that others can see firsthand how the students are contributing to the community and gaining career-enhancing experiences.

Some of the campus faculty members’ efforts reach into the high schools and connect with students before they enter college.


Last year mathematics faculty member Dywayne Nicely took a more personal and proactive approach to aiding the transition for these students. In collaboration with Chillicothe High School, Nicely
Dywayne Nicely works with student preparedness.
spearheaded a project that focused on the correlation between reading comprehension and the ability to solve math word problems, which are very common on standardized tests such as the ACT and in higher-education settings.

“I’ve been teaching at the college level for 13 years now and there is a noticeable dislike for word problems in the mathematics courses, so a lot of our motivation stemmed from wanting to see what we could do to help students in that area,” said Nicely of the study. “There is a link that shows a correlation between reading comprehension skills or literacy level and how individuals perform on word problems, so we decided to explore that idea.”

With college expectations and readiness in mind, Nicely brought the approach of teaching math through reading to the classroom and aided the students in dissecting the problems sentence by sentence to better apply their analytical skills. Of the 62 participants, approximately 42 percent would be considered first-generation if they chose to enroll in college.

“At the end of the study we saw positive changes across the board in both literacy level and word problem success. The lower level students saw the greatest improvement, and their improvement was highly statistically significant,” said Nicely of the results. “After learning this new approach many of the students realized that word problems really weren’t as difficult as they had previously thought and became a lot more confident in their abilities.”

Although they encounter many trials that other students do not face, first-generation students tend to be extremely driven and successful once they have found their focus and adjusted to the college environment. Next week, we will take a look into the perspective of some of these individuals.

Board of Regents grant extends internship program, offers career preparation for Chillicothe Campus students

Internships provide a bridge between the classroom and the workplace.

The Chillicothe Campus is part of a partnership that has been awarded a $240,000 Ohio Means Internships Grant from the Ohio Board of Regents to expand internships and co-op programs that offer students valuable work experience and career preparation. Other members include Southern State Community College as well as Buckeye Hills, Pickaway-Ross, Pike County and Scioto Valley Ohio technical centers. This partnership is part of a statewide workforce development effort to better serve students and businesses.

The new grant will span two years and builds upon the initial, one-year grant that reimburses employers up to 50 percent of each intern’s wages and pays the student’s tuition for academic credit associated with the internship.

“These grant funds are very valuable in allowing area businesses to offer important experiential learning without financial hardship to the employers or the students,” said OU-C Coordinator of Student Support Martha Tanedo, who coordinates the campus’ internship program. “Among benefits are an increased interest in internships on the part of both students and businesses. Employers understand that the end result is better-prepared future employees as well as interns who bring energy and new ideas. Consequently, they are willing to invest in this endeavor.”

The internships play an important role in complementing classroom instruction and preparing students for success in their professional pursuits.

“Students are able to learn how to succeed in a professional setting and the nuances that can only be fully experienced in the actual workplace,” she said. “These experiences serve as a bridge between their academic and professional careers.”

With the first grant, which began in the summer of 2013, OU-C has been able to provide approximately 10 students with internship opportunities at area employers.

Additionally, campus faculty members were able to have a dialogue with area business leaders to help ensure the campus’ academic offerings are aligned with the needs of employers and to consider other programs that may be relevant. Participating businesses have included PPG, VA Medical Center, Ross County Visitors Bureau and Glatfelter.

The grants are designed to align Ohio’s higher education curriculum with skills that are in demand by Ohio’s businesses so that students are better positioned for jobs in the state after graduation.

Faculty members in programs that have involved students in the internship program appreciate its value.

“Securing excellent internship placements for office administration students earning an Associate in Applied Business degree in Office Technology (OTEC) is a must,” said Allison White, associate professor and OTEC program coordinator. “Students are looking for business support positions in manufacturing and service companies for networking and on-the-job experience. Certifications, licenses, commissions, practicums, and especially internships are vital to success for a graduate of a two-year degree program.  These are power boosters in this highly technical and extremely competitive workplace environment.”

“This grant program is helping the campus and the community to join forces,” White said. “Now there can be paid opportunities for students in business degree programs that did not traditionally have such a perk.  The university gives back to the community and vice versa.”

Continuing education and workforce development efforts support Chillicothe Campus’ outreach mission

The Chillicothe Campus is reinvigorating its continuing education and workforce development efforts as part of the campus’ ongoing commitment of putting into action its mission of serving its region.

The Office of Continuing Education and Workforce Development strives to address the needs of area employers to improve the skills of their employees while also addressing the needs of those in the community looking to add to their education to secure a brighter future for themselves and their families. Providing personal enrichment opportunities is another aspect.

 These endeavors are important in connecting with the community and offering resources beyond the traditional classroom and lab setting. They are especially appealing for individuals looking to advance in their careers or develop skills to pursue a different line of work, as well as employers looking to help their workers sharpen their skills and adjust to new demands. There are also opportunities for individuals who are looking to explore an area of interest.

Marvin Jones, recently retired president and chief executive officer of the Chillicothe Ross Chamber of Commerce, has joined the campus on a one-year basis to provide focus to continuing education and workforce development efforts.

“The campus has resources to help companies and organizations strengthen their workforces, so it’s a matter of finding ways to bring the two together,” Jones said. “It is also a matter of making the community more aware of what is already offered at OU-C as well as learning what the community would like to see offered.”

Along those lines, Jones has taken a customer-focused approach, and he has spent much time talking with area employers to determine how the campus can best meet their needs so that the campus’ programming aligns with workplace realities.

As a new initiative, the campus is offering access to approximately 300 online courses through the ed2go program (, offering a convenient, inexpensive means for participants to earn a professional certificate, usually in six weeks. Courses begin each month, and costs are as low as $99.

As part of the communication effort, a Facebook page has been developed to help interested individuals stay current with opportunities, including upcoming events within continuing education and workforce development at

Awards recognize accomplishments of OU-C colleagues

The Staff Development Committee will be honoring three individuals from Ohio University-Chillicothe for outstanding service.  The award winners will be recognized at a ceremony this spring.  Nominations will be accepted from all members of the campus community:  Faculty (full-time and adjunct), administrative and hourly staff and students. 

  Awards Categories:
•    Faculty Award for Creativity in the Classroom
•    Staff Outstanding Service Award
•    Adjunct Appreciation Award (Group III)

For nominations, return the following documentation to Jonna Depugh in the Dean’s office.  All nomination materials are due by March 31 and must include:

•    A one page rationale of your nomination for the nominee
•    Nominee’s Curriculum Vitae/Resume
•    3-5 letters of support including supervisor, students, co-workers

Please note:  All nominees must be a fulltime employee unless the nomination is for the Adjunct Appreciation Award.

‘Recognition of Graduation’ event salutes students

OU-C strives to take a student-focused approach to its graduation ceremony.

OU-C will recognize Chillicothe Campus students who have earned their Ohio University degrees during the 2013-14 academic year during the annual “Recognition of Graduation” ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 2, in the Shoemaker Center.

Admission is free, and the public is invited.

“I encourage all members of the OU-C community to participate in or attend this event. On the Chillicothe Campus, we are focused on helping students attain success, and this type of festive occasion captures that spirit by saluting students for their efforts and recognizing those who have supported them along the way,” campus Dean Martin Tuck said.

A reception for the graduates and their families will be held afterward in the Shoemaker Center. A reception for faculty members will be held prior to the ceremony, at 6:30 p.m. in Shoemaker rooms 215 & 217. Further details, including the names of special speakers and other participants, will be released at a later date.

Formal commencement activities are held on the Athens campus.