USG enhances experience for first generation students

In an effort to provide career and social guidance for first generation college students, the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) is working towards establishing a formal program. The proposed program will offer first generation students a career center advisor, as well as possible orientation advising.

While there has been talk of providing an advisor to first generation college students in previous years, the university has yet to concretely institute such a program. In regards to the new initiative, USG is looking to assist first generation college students both during and after their undergraduate years.

“I’m looking to expand this to orientation advising, in terms of helping first generation students discover how majors connect to career paths,” said fourth-year USG representative Rishi Solanki, who sits on the USG Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

While career advising is an important component in guiding first generation college students, there are other aspects of the college experience that should also be tended to. In most cases, this includes unexpected changes which can be difficult for first generation students to navigate. For students who come from households where both parents have post-secondary educations, these challenges may appear to be less obvious.  

“There was never anyone there to make sure I was doing well academically all the time,” professor of English Dr. Gabrielle Parkin said, reflecting on her experience as what she called a “nontraditional first generation college student.”

Parkin is a Seminar Approach to General Education and Scholarship (SAGES) lecturer at Case Western Reserve University, and comes from a family where none of its members experienced a traditional college education.

“I remember desperately wanting to go to a four-year institution, but not knowing how to get there,” she said.

The first generation college student initiative aims to support these students in dealing with unexpected changes and difficulties they might face during their academic careers. As the USG Diversity and Inclusion Committee progresses with this initiative, Solanki encourages any first generation CWRU students to reach out with suggestions as to how this initiative could be improved.

“I’m really passionate about education and equality,” Solanki said. “Given all the tools Case Western has for students to succeed, I want to make sure our first generation college students are getting the resources they need to do well.”

Solanki can be contacted over email.