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First-Generation Student Support

Action Item (as stated with DEI strategic plan launch in 2016)

Building on the success of initial support programs aimed at retaining first-generation undergraduate and graduate students, the university will establish a dedicated position to coordinate and grow both academic and co-curricular support for students across campus who are the first in their families to attend college.

Progress update

Year Five was heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even so, programming continued as usual through virtual formats, and two new projects were launched. A graduate intern and two Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program students were hired to conduct a user-experience (UX) design assessment of the First-Generation Gateway website. The results of their review—which involved student interviews, a survey and a comparative analysis with other websites—will be used to upgrade the site.

During Year Five, the Gateway collaborated with the Office of Enrollment Management to conduct research on resource utilization by first-generation students. Focus groups were conducted in the winter 2020 term, and analysis of the interviews was completed during the summer and fall of 2021. First-Gen staff members presented the results at the annual Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) and American Educational Research Association (AERA) conferences in a paper entitled “A Grounded Theory Model of Advisor Trustworthiness: From a First-Generation Student Perspective.” Internally, findings were presented at the U-M Advising Conference (ACUM. 

Due to pandemic-related restrictions, all 2020-21 programming was conducted online. Working in cooperation with the Office of New Student Programs, First-Generation Gateway hosted the HAIL Scholars reception on Zoom. The reception included a welcome, an introduction to the new HAIL website and an online resource fair. Likewise, the annual student open house, fall and winter community dinners, graduation and First-Gen Week were virtual events. While graduate attendance dropped in 2020, participant numbers rebounded in 2021.

In Year Five, the Internship Action Team, a partnership between the First-Generation Gateway and University Career Center, launched a new initiative to assist a cohort of first-generation students in applying for summer internships. In this workshop, students learned about resume development, interviews, networking and online tools to help with application submissions. 

Also in Year Five, U-M elevated its status from cohort participation to that of a First Forward Advisory Institution. In this new capacity, the university will lead the Great Lakes regional cohort of new First Forward Institutions.  

Responsibility: Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives