Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Chillicothe Campus takes additional steps to help first-generation students realize their college goals

At OU-C, student success is more than a catchphrase.

By public relations writer Leah Sternberger

Several new initiatives have been implemented to position incoming first generation students for academic and social success this semester. The new measures are intended to increase retention rates among students who may lack the information or resources necessary to adjust to college life.

All new students have questions when entering college, but first generation students and their families often need more information to ease the transition.

“The most challenging thing has to be the simple fact that you have absolutely no idea what you are doing,” said OU-C senior and first generation student Luke Benning. “Not having anybody in my immediate family that has gone to college, I found it difficult to know what was required of me to

Luke Benning
even attend.” Benning, like many first generation students, needed assistance with scheduling classes, securing financial aid and knowing whom to ask for help.
Academic Advisor Beth Barnes is one of the many OU-C staff members involved in aiding first generation students. “This is the first year we have specifically focused on first generation students,” Barnes said. “As a first generation student myself, I understand the uncertainty the students feel.” The steps being taken this year focus on relieving some of that uncertainty for incoming students.

This semester, academic advisors started identifying first generation students prior to the start of classes. “We meet with all incoming OU-C students after they take their academic placement tests and identify first generation students at that point,” Barnes said.

 “After orientation, we conduct follow-up appointments with students to further clarify what was discussed at orientation. During these appointments we answer questions about class choices, schedules, purchasing text books and financial aid.”

 Advisors meet with all incoming OU-C students, but for first generation students the meeting is geared towards providing them with the resources they need to move forward. The follow-up meeting gives them the opportunity to ask questions and receive additional support.
OU-C faculty and staff have also made strides to make sure the parents of first generation students are equally equipped for their child to begin classes.

Coordinator of Student Support Martha Tanedo hosted a separate breakout group for parents and guests at this year’s student orientation session. This group helped each student’s guest or parent understand the adjustments, time restrictions and added responsibilities that the student will encounter while pursuing a degree.

“We’ve never done breakout sessions for guests or parents before. The process of entering college is overwhelming for students and can be just as overwhelming for first generation parents,” Tanedo said. “The session gives parents the opportunity to ask questions outside of being with students. They get the feel of some of the challenges students might face and the importance of doing well in higher education.”

Kelsey Crabtree
Kelsey Crabtree, a senior studying applied management, agreed that sharing the learning experience with parents is critical to success. “Since my parents never graduated from college, they didn’t really understand how to guide me through the process. Everything that was new to me, was new to them,” Crabtree said. “Even though your parents may not have the experience to guide you through college, always include them in the process. This allows them to have a better understanding of how to support you.”

After orientation, Barnes followed up with students to make sure they were ready to begin classes. “I sent an email to all first generation students welcoming them to campus and addressing some of the issues that other first generation students have asked about,” Barnes said.
When all new students schedule their first set of classes, they have the opportunity to enroll in an introductory course, “Mastering the University Experience” (UC 1000). All incoming freshmen are encouraged to take the course to give them a strong start to their college career.

Deidre Davitt
Nursing student and sophomore Deidre Davitt highly recommends the course to other first generation students. “The course helps new students transition to Ohio University, both academically and personally,” Davitt said. 

This year, for the first time, OU-C freshmen also have the option of joining a learning community to expedite a feeling of familiarity on campus. “There are two learning communities in place at this time,” said Tanedo. “One joins ENG 1510 and ART 1141 (digital photography). The other joins ENG 1510 and SOC 1000. Student must enroll in both classes and the instructors facilitate the community experience.”

In both classes the students cover similar topics, participate in group activities and get to know their fellow community members and instructors. Learning community enrollment is not limited to first generation students, but they provided much of the motivation behind implementing the learning community classes.

In addition to learning communities, students can expect to see examples of successful first generation students posted around campus. “We began a first generation poster campaign highlighting faculty members who were first generation students,” Barnes said.

She included a copy of the poster in the email she sent to first generation students before the start of the semester as a reminder that no academic goal is unachievable. 

Despite all of the new initiatives to help first generation students, their most valuable resource remains OU-C’s faculty and staff members and their interest in helping students realize their college goals.

“I hope that my students know that I am always available to listen to them and that no question is too trivial,” Barnes said.

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