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Ensuring Success for First-Generation Students: Providing Mentorship Through FYSM Tricia L. England, Zachary T. Ford, and Andrea C. Krekel Iowa State University
FGS Success 2 Ensuring Success for First-Generation Students: Providing Mentorship Through FYSM The Issue Overview of Issue First-generation college students face many unique challenges as they transition to the university environment. Because of the distinct perspective these students bring to the university culture, their retention is vital. Universities must be prepared to offer resources and support that cater to the specific challenges these students face. It is not only important to equip them for academic success, but for social survival in an environment for which they likely have little context. In this report, we analyze the research about the experiences of first-generation students and introduce an intervention we believe will successfully address the identified issues. We base our program, FYSM (First Year Student Mentors), on successful mentorship models, rooted in developmental theory. The Setting The intervention takes place at Iowa State University, a large public land grant institution in the Midwest, currently enrolling over 26,000 students. Despite the fact that the number of open-option first generation students fluctuates from year to year, they are an important population of students who need extra support to succeed. As each week focuses on a different area of student affairs, students would experience a variety of different programs, taking part in many academic and social events. Student organizations, academic success center, financial aid office, and the writing lab will be a few of the areas included in this program. Student affairs professionals will provide support throughout the semester, with the possibility of directly
FGS Success 3 assisting mentors and mentees with issues that arise. Most of the students will live in residence halls making inclusion of community advisors and hall personnel a priority. Literature Review According to Inkelas, Daver, Vogt, and Leonard (2007), research defines first-generation college students in a variety of ways. Some definitions include only those students whose parents have absolutely no college experience, while others define first-generation students as those students whose parents did not earn a bachelor’s degree but may have some amount of college experience. Although most institutions do not track this population, Inkelas et al. point out that most researchers agree that the number of first-generation students in higher education is increasing. Counted or not, these students face many challenges, especially during their first year in college. Inkelas et al. (2007) described some of the characteristics of first-generation students in comparison to those students whose parents earned at least a bachelor’s degree. First-generation students tend to come from families of lower income, are more likely to be a member of a racial/ethnic minority, and tend to get less support from family. Inkelas et al. went on to say, “First-generation students enrolled in and earned fewer credits, worked more hours, lived off campus, participated less in and out of class activities, had fewer non-academic peer interactions, and earned lower grades” (p. 405). Inkelas et al. also stated that first-generation students are twice as likely to leave four-year institutions before the second year and less likely to return, compared to students whose parents earned at least a bachelor’s degree. According to Bui (2002), although first-generation students are more likely to start at two-year institutions, they are more likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree when they begin their education at four-year institutions. Of the first-generation students who started college in the 1989-90 academic year,
FGS Success 4 only 10% of those who started at a two-year institution completed their bachelor’s degree by 1994; however, 40% of those who started at a four-year institution that academic year completed their bachelor’s degree by 1994. According to Bui (2002), first-generation students “are more likely to be ethnic minority students, to come from a lower socioeconomic background, and to speak a language other than English at home” (p. 3). In comparison to students whose parents earned a bachelor’s degree, first-generation students placed higher importance on going to college to gain respect, bring honor to their families, and provide financial support to their families. During their first year of college, first-generation students felt less prepared, expressed greater fear of failure, and spent more time studying. In addition, first-generation students reported knowing less about the social environment of college and worried more about financial issues (Bui, 2002). Cushman (2007) presented qualitative research that found first-generation students felt shock at their lack of academic preparedness and at the academic and social climate of college. They felt they were less financially prepared and were less self-confident than their peers whose parents were college educated. According to Cushman, “differences in income, social styles, and even speech patterns cause many first generation college students to feel like outsiders. Their first concern is often to make friends, which invites all the difficult identity issues of late adolescence” (p. 45). Cushman found involvement in student organizations an effective way of forming social networks, as well as developing personal skills such as leadership. Cushman found “students who receive support from the beginning often learn to enjoy standing out in the crowd” (p. 46). First-generation students must learn how to confront their classmates about such issues of identity, privilege, and cultural understanding. Participants in Cushman’s study saw it as their responsibility to educate their classmates on their perspectives on these issues.
FGS Success 5 According to Inkelas et al. (2007), first-generation students are more likely to persist in college if they successfully connect academically and socially with the college culture. These authors said there is a link between the amount of time first-generation students spend making connections and persistence in finishing their degree. Two of the factors that make firstgeneration students feel less connected to campus are limited interaction with faculty and lack of engagement in extracurricular activities. Inkelas et al. go on to say: Peer relationships…and a peer culture that emphasizes academic pursuits and peers as study partners can assist in a successful academic transition, as do connections with faculty and other academic support services. More specifically, peers can serve as a source of support and encouragement for first generation college students who might need more affirmation about their legitimacy. (p. 407) Smith (2007) conducted a qualitative study, designed to examine the creation of social capital within the academic mentoring relationship between students of color and/or firstgeneration students and their mentors. According to the Smith, there has been extensive research on mentoring relationships. However, because mentoring programs are usually part of other academic programming, it is difficult to determine the specific impact of the mentoring relationship separate from the impact of the other academic programming. This research project approached the assessment question from a different perspective. Instead of using academic achievement as a measurement of success for the mentoring relationships, this researcher looked at the process of creating social capital within the mentoring relationship. Smith used sociologist James Coleman’s framework of social capital. According to Coleman (1988): Social capital is defined by its function. It is not a single entity but a variety of different entities, with two elements in common: they all consist of some aspect of social
FGS Success 6 structures, and they facilitate some actions of actors within the structure. Like other forms of capital, social capital is productive, making possible the achievement of certain ends that in its absence would not be possible. (p. S98) According to Smith (2007), the major elements of social capital within the mentoring relationship include norms (limitations and expectations of the relationship), sanctions (consequences of not following norms), closure (access to social networks), and information channels (knowledge, skill sets, resources). Smith (2007) first looked at establishment of norms within the mentoring relationship. There was no standard as to the amount of contact required within the mentoring programs. During a very brief orientation, the participants learned that regular contact between mentor and mentee was necessary, but the amount of time was not quantified. Establishing trust is an essential element in forming a productive mentoring relationship. Therefore, Smith looked at the level of trust within each relationship. She found that the mentors perceived a low to moderate level of trust with the mentees; however, the mentees perceived a moderate to high level of trust with their mentors. Smith attributed this to the fact that the mentors experienced the interactions from a different perspective than the mentees, who placed more significance on the personal nature of the interactions. When the mentors shared their personal experiences with their mentees, the mentees were more likely to feel a special connection with their mentors, which was an important step in establishing trust. According to Smith, “the closeness of mentoring relationships is determined more by trustworthiness and friendship than racial and power differentials” (p. 41).
FGS Success 7 Smith (2007) found that there were no formal sanctions created within the mentoring relationships. None of the respondents articulated any serious consequences for not complying with the norms. According to Smith: Mentors and mentees do not think harsh consequences are necessary because they cannot imagine their respective partners violating the norms of the mentoring relationship….They contend that the special bond they develop during their relationships will help reinforce the norms more than superimposed external sanctions. (p. 42) Smith saw this as a weakness in the mentoring relationships. She believed that formal sanctions needed to be in place in order for the mentoring relationships to development. Smith (2007) also believed that the mentoring relationships in the study fell short in the area of closure, which Smith defined as mentors establishing networks with others on campus for the benefit of the mentees. Mentors did not discuss their mentees with others on campus, because they were not aware making such connections was a component of the mentoring program. In addition, they believed it was a breach of confidentiality. The mentees in the study similarly felt that if their mentors did discuss them with others at the university, it would be a breach of the confidentiality and trust already established in the relationships. The final element of creating social capital, which Smith (2007) explored, was forming information channels. According to Smith, “Information channels refer to the knowledge, skill sets, and resources that mentors provide and mentees expect to receive during the mentoring relationship” (p. 42). The recurring expectation of mentees was that their mentors would help them navigate the university academic system and share personal experiences of their academic successes. This was consistent with the expectations of the mentors.
FGS Success 8 According to Casto, Caldwell, and Salazar (2005), two types of mentoring relationships exist, either formal or informal. The authors cautioned that “women in formal mentorships receive less coaching, role modeling, friendship, social interactions, and counseling than those in informal mentoring relationships, whereas the type of mentoring relationship did not change the mentoring functions that men receive” (p. 333). They point out that being involved in a mentoring relationship does not preclude the possibility of being involved in other mentoring relationships. If the student has multiple mentors, they can all contribute to meeting the students’ needs in different ways. Casto et al. (2005) present guidelines for mentees. They point out that it is important that the mentee take the mentoring relationship seriously. The mentee should be open to constructive criticism and show openness to the mentor’s point of view. The mentee should approach the relationship with a willingness to implement the mentor’s suggestions. The mentee should develop a set of expectations for their mentor and ask for what he or she needs. The mentee should seek guidance from the mentor. The mentee has a responsibility to do her part to maintain the mentoring relationship. The mentee should be mindful that her mentor has a variety of other commitments, so she should be respectful of her mentor’s time commitment to the relationship. The mentee should not arrive late at appointments with the mentor. The mentee should do what she says she is going to do. The mentee is ultimately responsible for her learning experiences, so she should be open to guidance and instruction from her mentor. The mentee should share her success with her mentor and keep her apprised of important events in her life. Casto et al. (2005) also outlined guidelines for mentors. According to the authors, the mentor’s primary commitments are “time, willingness to maintain clear channels of communication, and willingness to be genuine in the relationship” (p. 334). Casto et al. described
FGS Success 9 the mentor’s role as one of teacher, counselor, advisor, model, and protector; however, the role of the mentor will change with the needs of the mentee. Casto et al. described the psychosocial benefits for the mentor as the opportunity for facilitation of competence and “identity development via role modeling, acceptance and confirmation, counsel, and friendship” (p. 334). The mentor has a responsibility to offer a balance of challenge and support, based on the needs of the mentee. In order to create a mentoring mind set, the mentor should become mindful of all that she has to offer the mentee. The mentor is responsible for creating a safe environment, in which the mentee is free to share thoughts and ideas. The mentor should work with the mentee in establishing well-defined expectations of the mentoring relationship. The mentor should be mindful that she is the more powerful person in the relationship. The mentor should be intentional and focused about developing the relationship, always mindful that the primary goal of the mentoring relationship is the growth and development of the mentee. The mentor should set aside an adequate amount of time with the mentee. The authors recommended documenting activities and time spent with the mentee. The mentor is responsible for providing constructive feedback to her mentee. This requires maintaining open communication and being respectful of the mentees background and personal circumstances. The mentor should actively watch for signs of trouble with the mentee and proactively offer assistance. In reference to cross-cultural mentoring relationships, Casto et al. (2005) instructed: White mentors need to recognize how issues such as cross-cultural communication and differences in power and dynamics…may influence the mentoring relationship. In successful cross-cultural mentoring, mentees of color must gain from their mentors a sense of genuine concern for their personal welfare…. Demonstrating sensitivity and
FGS Success 10 willingness to learn about your mentee’s ethnic heritage and appreciate an individual mentee’s differences within his or her culture are vital. (p. 335) Casto et al. (2005) pointed out a number of issues surrounding cross-gender mentoring relationships. There may be concern about perceived unethical ulterior motives. Socialized roles may interfere with the mentoring relationship, especially if there are unaddressed issues of sexism. However, the Casto et al. pointed out that sometimes when men mentor women, the relationships are more successful for the mentees, because men seem more willing to promote their mentees. The authors went on to say women-to-women mentoring relationships tend to focus more on the social and networking aspects of the relationship. According to Benishek, Bieschke, Park, and Slattery (2004), while the popularity of mentoring relationships rises, unrealistic expectations of mentors and mentees perpetuate misconceptions about the nature of these relationships. Benishek et al. contended that mentors and mentees enter mentoring relationships unprepared for the challenges these relationships might involve. Among the misconceptions about mentoring relationships is that traditional models of mentoring are not appropriate in all situations. Benishek et al. contended that traditional models of mentoring do not account for individual differences in life histories and life contexts of the participants. They went on to say there are certainly benefits to the mentoring relationship; however, it is necessary for mentors and mentees to be aware that mentoring relationships are not always productive or conflict-free. Underrepresented populations experience specific problems associated with mentoring relationships. While members of underrepresented populations prefer mentors who are similar to them, they find it challenging to find mentors of similar gender, sexual orientation, race or ethnicity, or social class. In addition, it is occasionally challenging for members of under-represented populations to serve as mentors,
FGS Success 11 because of their limitations in status and power. There are also perceived and real issues involving cross-gender mentoring relationships. Benishek et al. (2004) raised concerns about applying traditional mentoring models to diverse groups. “These concerns center on how women, people of color, and other marginalized people may have different needs than historically predominant white males….Further, individuals from these groups often have other concerns that can complicate identifying and establishing a mentoring relationship” (p. 432). They went on to present the idea of multicultural feminist mentoring, which they described as “an interactive process in which differences are a) clearly defined, b) explored when appropriate in order to determine their relevance to the relationship, and c) ultimately result in a relational exchange that is respectful of differences” (p. 434). Benishek et al (2004) presented a multicultural feminist mentoring model. The key characteristics of the model encompass a commitment to diversity. They include rethinking power within the mentoring relationship, emphasizing relational aspects, valuing collaboration, integrating dichotomies, and incorporating political analysis. As part of rethinking of power, the mentor must put the mentees needs as the primary focus of the mentoring relationship. There should be an examination of privilege and power differences within the relationship. The emphasis is on working together and respecting the differences of the other. Emphasizing the relational means the mentoring is genuine. The mentoring is both task and relationship oriented. The mentor should encourage the mentee to seek out other mentors, because a single relationship cannot meet all of the mentee’s needs. Valuing collaboration means that the mentor and mentee work together on projects and tasks, and they value the contribution of the other. They encourage diverse perspectives and the majority culture does not prescribe participation. Integration of
FGS Success 12 dichotomies means that both members of the relationship value experiences outside of the majority culture and value the differences in each other. Incorporating political analysis means challenging values such as homophobia, sexism, or racism. The mentoring relationship values social advocacy and social justice activities. Theoretical analysis Students enter the college environment at a wide range of developmental levels. As discussed in the literature review, first-generation students deal with a plethora of challenges, regardless of their level of development. This intervention accommodates these considerations. There are various developmental theories that support this intervention, and we present three as different supporting perspectives. The Reflective Judgment Model introduced by King and Kitchener (as cited in Evans, Forney, and Guido-DiBrito, 1998) demonstrates how FYSM supports the cognitive development of first-generation students. The model describes the different ways that students consider vexing problems. First-generation students are making life transitions with little context for their new environment; thus, the number and extent of challenges they face is greater. Overwhelming them with supportive resources is not helpful if they do not have the opportunity to reflect on the problems they are facing. A mentor is a useful solution. In addition to training mentors to help address the logistical challenges students might face, we will train them to be supportive confidantes who encourage their mentees to reflect and consider the new situations they are experiencing. As near peers who have already had the experience of being incoming first-generation students, the mentors can relate to the mentees, helping them think reflectively within the context of their backgrounds and experiences.
FGS Success 13 Many of King and Kitchener’s (as cited in Evans et al., 1998) suggestions for teaching reflective thinking support this intervention. The planned activities that make up the structure of FYSM encourage mentees to take risks (such as by visiting professors for the first time), explore different points of view (such as by joining a student organization), and find opportunities to make judgments and explain what they believe (such as by developing their writing skills by visiting the Writing Center). They also expose mentees to a campus culture that promotes thoughtful analysis of issues. The development of these skills is particularly important to firstgeneration students because they tend to lack the same support as their peers. Regardless of each student’s stage of reflective thinking upon entering, mentoring relationships will provide them with perspective and a confidante of reflection that will support them as they face the many challenges associated with their first year of college. Another theoretical perspective that supports FYSM is Chickering’s Theory of Identity Development (as cited by Evans et al., 1998). Chickering defined seven vectors of development within his theory. These vectors represent a configuration similar to a spiral or steps, rather than a straight line of development. They are not rigidly sequential, and students may reexamine issues that they dealt with in earlier vectors. Chickering’s seven vectors are developing competence, managing emotions, moving through autonomy toward interdependence, developing mature interpersonal relationships, establishing identity, developing purpose, and developing integrity. It is likely that first-generation students will deal with issues surrounding each of the seven vectors throughout their college careers. However, we believe it is most likely that, during their first semester while they participate in FYSM, they will deal with developing competence, moving through autonomy toward interdependence, developing mature interpersonal relationships.
FGS Success 14 As cited by Evans et al. (1998), developing competence includes intellectual competence, physical and manual skills, and interpersonal competence. Evans et al. cited Chickering as saying, “A sense of competence…stems from the confidence that one can cope with what comes and achieve goals successfully” (p. 38). The challenges cited in the literature that make it reasonable to believe first-generation students will face a number of issues addressed in this vector. For example, first-generation students are more likely to lack social and academic preparedness, to express greater fear of failure, and spend more time studying (Bui, 2002). In addition, they tend to participate less during class and during out of class activities; have fewer non-academic peer interactions; and are more likely to earn lower grades and fewer credits (Inkelas, 2007). For these reasons, one of the primary components of FYSM is facilitating the development of confidence through successful mastery of tasks and goals, which leads to the development of competence. First generation students may deal with issues involving moving through autonomy toward interdependence. Development in this vector includes movement away from a need for “reassurance, affection, or approval from others” (Chickering & Reisser as cited by Evans et al., p. 39, 1998). As cited by Evans et al., as part of this vector, students “develop instrumental independence, which includes self-direction, problem-solving ability, and mobility” (p. 39). Eventually, students realize the importance of interdependence and interconnectedness with others. There are a number of reasons that we believe this vector might be significant during first-generation students participation in FYSM. First, first-generation students are more likely to place higher importance on going to college to gain respect and bring honor to their families. By participating in FYSM and developing competence, first-generation students will move away from needing the reassurance of their families. We designed our program to facilitate the
FGS Success 15 development of self-direction and problem solving abilities. Another significant characteristic of first-generation students, which might lead to developmental issues addressed in this vector, is the fact that these students often have less familial support. The literature attributed this to the fact that since their parents did not attend college, they are unable to offer guidance about expectations or the process, or they do not place value on importance of higher education (Inkelas et al., 2007). In light of this possible lack of support, facilitating connections on campus becomes even more essential and why it is an essential component of FYSM. Based on the literature review, it seems likely that first-generation students might deal with issues involving developing mature interpersonal relationships. This vector includes development of a sense of self, along with appreciation of diversity and development of intercultural tolerance (as cited in Evans et al., 1998). It also includes the development of the ability for close friendships and partnered relationships. Issues addressed in this vector are significant because first-generation students often are members of ethnic or racial minorities and likely speak languages other than English at home (Bui, 2002 and Inkelas, 2007). It is possible that some of these students have limited experience with diverse populations or intercultural interactions, before coming to college. In addition, they will experience a variety of new ideas and points of view, which they must process and possibly assimilate into their evolving sense of self. According to Cushman (2007), first-generation students must learn how to confront their classmates about such issues of identity, privilege, and cultural understanding. Participants in Cushman’s study saw it as their responsibility to educate their classmates on their perspectives on this issue. Another theoretical basis for our intervention is Schlossberg’s Transition Theory (as cited in Evans et al, 1998). Although Schlossberg’s theory is normally associated with adult learners,
FGS Success 16 it is also applicable to students of traditional college age. Using Schlossberg’s theory in relation to first-generation students is appropriate, because these students are facing a number of significant transitions, especially during their first year of college. For example, these students face a number of anticipated transitions, such as living in a new environment and separation from their families. First-generation students also face a number of unanticipated transitions, such as when they have difficulty making new friends or if they realize they are academically unprepared for college course work. One example of a non-event that first-generation students might face is unrealized expectations of their college experience. As cited in Evans et al. (1998), Schlossberg identified four elements of transition, which are situation, self, support, and strategies. There are a number of considerations that may influence the situation of first-generation students. For example, first-generation students tend to come from a lower socioeconomic background (Bui, 2002). They place high importance on going to college to gain respect, bring honor to their families, and provide financial support to their families (Smith, 2007). While at school, they are more likely to live off campus and work more hours at jobs (Inkelas, 2007). In reference to elements of self, first-generation students tend to be members of a racial or ethnic minority and speak a language other than English at home (Bui, 2007). According to Cushman (2007), first-generation students feel less prepared, express greater fear of failure, and spend more time studying. In addition, first-generation students report knowing less about the academic and social environment of college and worry more about financial issues (Bui, 2007). They tend to feel less academically and socially prepared for the challenges of college (Cushman, 2007). As Cushman pointed out, “Differences in income, social styles, and even speech patterns cause many first generation college students to feel like outsiders” (p. 45).
FGS Success 17 Considerations of support during transition include that first-generation students are less likely to receive support and encouragement from their parents (Bui, 2007). In addition, Inkelas et al. (2007) found first-generation students likely “lived off campus, participated less in and out of class activities, had fewer non-academic peer interactions” (p. 45), all of which indicate lack of support. In reference to strategies for first-generation students, they are more likely to persist in college if they successfully connect academically and socially with the college culture. There is a link between the amount of time first-generation students spend making connections and persistence in finishing their degrees. Two of the factors that make first-generation students feel less connected to campus are limited interaction with faculty and lack of engagement in extracurricular activities (Inkelas et al. 2007). Schlossberg speaks of moving in, moving through, and moving out of transitions (as cited by Evans et al., 1998). This means that an occurrence triggers the transition; for first-generation students, the transition trigger is starting colleges. Once the transition is underway, students must move through the transition by integrating the changes into their lives. For first-generation students, this means acclimating to such things as the college environment, academic and social culture, and development changes previously described. The amount of time for integrating elements of the transition varies by individual and is contingent on the person’s abilities or lack of abilities in the areas of situation, self, support, and strategies. Ideally, people move out of the transition, which means they have fully integrated the transition into their lives. For firstgeneration students this means they have successfully acclimated to the college experience. The students who do not successfully move out of this transition are probably the ones who leave college and never return.
FGS Success 18 The Intervention Developmental Context Iowa State University has a student population of over 26,000 students, who arrive at the university at a variety of developmental levels. When analyzed through the lens of the Reflective Judgment Model (King & Kitchener as cited in Evans et al., 1998), some students arrive as prereflective thinkers while others have already developed into quasi-reflective thinkers. Through the model of Chickering’s vectors (as cited in Evans et al., 1998), students have made different amounts of progress along different vectors; some may have already made significant progress developing their identities (Chickering’s fifth vector), while others are not yet ready. FYSM is an intervention designed to support the challenges that are specific to first-generation students as they begin their first year at college, regardless of their developmental progress. Mentors will have the opportunity to address the specific needs of their particular mentees, but the overall intervention, as designed, will effectively serve all students. Description of Targeted Audience The intervention targets first year students who indicated first generation status on their FAFSA. The desired students will be open option students in the Liberal Arts and Sciences College at Iowa State University, which means they have not yet declared an academic major. Focusing this program in its pilot stages on this population of students helps feasibly narrow the scope of the audience and provides extra support to a group that does not have the same campus connection, that of an academic department. Statistics also show that many first-generation students are almost three times less likely to have declared a major, which suggests that the population of open-option students is an effective sub-audience to target (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2000).
FGS Success 19 Students of any gender, race, or racial/cultural background are encouraged to participate in this program. The one semester program is voluntary for mentors and mentees, though participants may choose to continue their mentoring relationships. Activities are planned weekly that deal with academic readiness, financial aid, social interaction, and study skills. Implementation of the program commences during the 2008-2009 academic school year. Intervention Goals Chickering and Reisser (as cited in Evans et al., 1998) presented seven vectors that outlined psychosocial development during the college years. These vectors, which can build upon each other and intersect, provide student affairs professionals with a very user-friendly framework in which to address the support of their students. The implementation of FYSM could likely influence any of the seven, but three vectors in particular stand out as opportunities for growth. Each coincides directly with one of the goals of the FYSM program. The first goal of FYSM is to equip first-generation, open-option students with the skills and support they need to succeed academically, which supports Chickering’s first vector, Developing Competence (as cited in Evans, et al. 1998). Chickering and Reisser described competence as intellectual competence, physical and manual skills, and interpersonal competence, held together by confidence and coping skills, which are collectively the fundamental skills students need for academic success. Aspects of FYSM address study skills and habits, writing skills, and relationships with professors, all rooted in a structure of peer support and motivation. If implemented, FYSM will support ample growth in the Developing Competence vector. The second goal of FYSM is to provide support to first-generation, open-options students to engage in the social culture of the campus, which coincides with Chickering’s fourth vector,
FGS Success 20 Developing Mature Interpersonal Relationships (as cited in Evans, et al., 1998). One of the challenges for any student is making new social connections, but some students face extra challenges. Students who are open-option cannot rely on having multiple classes with the same individuals, as students with a declared major might. In addition, first-generation students often have little or no context for the social climate of a college campus. FYSM provides support for all of these challenges through peer support and various social activities. For example, the group meetings give mentees the opportunity to meet other students facing similar struggles. Social activities, such as having meals with the mentors’ friends or attending student organization meetings expose mentees to a variety of new connections, increasing their opportunities to explore and appreciate differences while developing an interpersonal support structure. While we cannot force mentees to develop friendships, providing the opportunities for these connections increases the likelihood of their success. The third goal of FYSM is to empower first-generation, open-option students to take responsibility for their own education, correlating well with what Chickering and Reisser term Moving Through Autonomy Toward Interdependence, the third vector (as cited in Evans et al., 1998). Mentors help support mentees as they approach the challenges of emotional independence, especially while separated from their families, perhaps for the first time. Activities such as meeting with a financial advisor or applying for scholarships help support mentees’ instrumental independence. Lastly, as the mentorship relationships develop, mentors and mentees will learn to appreciate how they can support and depend on each other, facilitating the development of interdependence. Ultimately, this vector represents an important area of development that FYSM supports through almost every aspect of its programming.
FGS Success 21 Though FYSM ultimately serves those three vectors, it is likely that certain mentormentee relationships could inherently affect progress along the other vectors as well. For example, if a mentorship develops a high level of confidence or friendship, the mentor will likely be supporting the mentee’s ability to manage his or her emotions, Chickering’s second vector (as cited in Evans et al., 1998). In addition, the quality of the mentorship could have a substantial effect on a mentee’s identity development, Chickering’s fifth vector, as well as, development of purpose and integrity, Chickering’s sixth and seventh vectors, respectively. While these possibilities are speculative, it is important to recognize the potential extended benefits of involvement in the FYSM program. The goals of FYSM are firmly grounded in Chickering and Reisser’s Theory of Identity Development (as cited in Evans et al., 1998). As previously indicated, various other theories confirm the positive impact of the various activities that support achieving these goals. The true success of the intervention, of course, relies on the dedication of its participants, but they can rest assured that they are pursuing an initiative truly rooted in developmental theory. Intervention Students will indicate on their FAFSA form that they are first-generation college students attending Iowa State University for the 2008-2009 academic school year. The intervention team will work with both the Registrar’s Office and the Admission Office to identify students who have indicated first-generation status and who are applying for enrollment as open-option students. These students will be contacted via a letter in Spring 2008 that describes FYSM, including a description of the program and activities, and that invites them to participate in the program (see Appendix F for a FYSM informational brochure). Below is a list of FYSM’s planned activities, arranged in order by which week they take place during the semester:
FGS Success 22 1. Group Meeting: Introductions, Icebreakers, MBTI and Discussion, Expectation Setting 2. Campus Resource Scavenger Hunt 3. Group Meeting: Time Management Skills 4. Attend an academic success workshop 6. Mentor accompanies Mentee to visit professors during office hours 7. Group Meeting: Presentation by financial advisor 8. Mentor accompanies Mentee to Writing Lab for assistance on a paper. 11. Investigate and Apply for Scholarships 12. Group Meeting: Picnic and Social In addition, within the first month of the program, the mentor will invite the mentee to dinner with his or her friends and accompany the mentee to a student organization meeting of the mentee’s interest. Throughout the program, the mentor and mentee should attend at least three different cultural events (such as arts, theatre, music, athletics, and lectures). Mentors are selected through an interview process. Potential mentors are identified as first-generation students by their FAFSA forms and contacted with an invitation to apply to be mentors. The FYSM team will select applicants from the collected applications; these applicants will then participate in a group interview, followed by a one-on-one interview. The FYSM team will select mentors in time for them to undergo training before the end of the Spring 2008 semester. The mentor position is voluntary. The FYSM Team matches potential mentors and mentees by random selection. The mentors and mentees will not meet each other until the first large group meeting, which will take place during the week before the Fall 2008 semester. The meeting will include icebreakers and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which will help the mentors and mentees get to know each
FGS Success 23 other better and understand how to work together more effectively. The mentors and mentees will also discuss their expectations for each other and the program. Before the meeting is over, mentors and mentees will discuss times for eating dinner together and attending an organization of the mentee’s choice. The pair might also discuss what cultural events they would like to attend. A question and answer session will conclude the session to ensure all participants are prepared for the FYSM program. After each meeting and activity, the mentor needs to complete an assessment form stating what activity the pair completed, how the activity went, how the mentee responded, and what they would do better or differently next time (see Appendix B). A comment box will be included so that they can share challenges and ideas with the FYSM team. The worksheet serves as a learning tool for the mentors as well as a tool of accountability between them and the FYSM team. Because the Fall 2008 semester will be FYSM’s first implementation, it is imperative that communication flows smoothly so the FYSM team can make adjustments as necessary throughout the course of the program. The prescribed list of activities serves only a minimum for the expectations of the mentor relationship. Mentors are encouraged to help mentees succeed in the new environment of college above and beyond this list. If problems arise between the mentor and mentee and they cannot address the conflict themselves, the FYSM team will intervene. Rationale Champagne and Petitpas’ model for implementing Schlossberg’s Transition Theory serves as the rationale for our intervention. As cited by Evans et al. (1998), the Champagne and Petitpas model lists eight functions: provide specialized services, education, advocacy, clearinghouse, referrals, program planning, networking and mentoring, and counseling. We
FGS Success 24 designed our intervention based on experiences of first-generation students identified in the literature; these were feelings of lack of academic preparedness, worries about financial aid, fears of failure, and unawareness of the campus social environment (Bui, 2002). We complete the functions of providing specialized services and program planning by designing a mentoring program that addresses the needs of first-generation students. Our program design facilitates increased awareness of campus resources and services. For example, we require each mentoring pair to attend an academic success workshop. We require the mentors to accompany their mentees to the writing lab for assistance on at least one assignment. Our program planning includes the open session and a social event at the end of the semester. We offer voluntary support groups for first-generation students, which will meet on a weekly basis. These support groups will offer an opportunity for first-generation students to meet others dealing with similar issues. In addition, we see the administrators of this program acting as support to first-generation students. The next function of the Champagne and Petipas’ model is education (as cited in Evans et al., 1998), which we address in our intervention through a number of the required activities. The campus resource scavenger hunt increases awareness of the campus and available resources (see Appendix A for two models of this survey). The time management skills workshop will teach first-generation students practical skills in finding a balance in their lives. The presentation by the financial advisor will educate first-generation students on such issues as financial aid and budgeting. As previously stated, there are academic components of our program, such as our mentoring pairs attending an academic success workshop and going to the writing lab. In addition, the mentors will accompany the mentees on an introductory meeting with their professors.
FGS Success 25 We complete the next function of the Champagne and Petipas’ model (as cited in Evans et al., 1998), which is advocacy, by designing a program based on the goals of our intervention. Our goals are to equip first-generation students for increased academic success, support them in becoming socially connected on campus, and empowering them to take responsibility for their own education. By creating a program specifically for first-generation students, we are advocating for their needs. In addition, we see the mentors and the staff that facilitates this program acting as advocates for first-generation students. The next two functions of the Champagne and Petitpas’ model are a clearinghouse for and referrals to institutional and community resources (as cited in Evans et al., 1998). Our program meets these functions on multiple levels. First, the office that administers this program will function as a resource for first-generation students and make referrals as necessary. Next, the mentors will serve as personal resources on campus and refer their mentees to appropriate resources on campus or in the community, when necessary. Finally, a number of the required activities include exploring campus resources, such as the scavenger hunt, the meetings with the professors, the appointment(s) with the writing lab, investigation of and application for scholarships, and investigating student organizations. Networking and mentoring is the next function of the Champagne and Petipas model (as cited in Evans, et al., 1998). Although this is a mentoring program, this program goes beyond the mentoring relationship. Through the mentoring relationship, the mentees have access to their mentors’ knowledge about the campus culture. The mentors will introduce their mentees to others on campus and assist their mentees in navigating the university system. The final function of the Champagne and Petipas model is counseling (as cited in Evans et al., 1998). There is not an expectation of our mentors that they will solve their mentees’
FGS Success 26 problems or counsel them in any formal manner. Instead, the mentors will act as a source of support, encouragement, and knowledge for their mentees. An expectation of the mentors is that they will watch for early warning signs of their mentees’ struggles, so that the first-generation students will access support services as early as possible. The mentors will assist their mentees, by directing them to resources available on campus. In addition, we are hopeful that the mentoring relationship will lead to a lasting friendship beyond the first semester. Evaluation Plan The goals of this intervention center on affecting the experience of first-generation students. Thus, measuring the success of the program requires investigating the experience of these students in relationship to the mentoring they receive. We will distribute to the mentees a survey twice during the course of the program. The first distribution will occur approximately three to four weeks into the semester, so that the mentees can report on their initial experiences with their mentors. This will serve as a pre-test for the program. We will distribute the same survey at the end of the semester, evaluating the program from a general perspective. In addition, we will compare the pre-test and the post-test to generate a more accurate depiction of the intervention’s impact. It is also important for the mentees to reflect on their experiences. This is why the survey contains several open-ended questions about the mentees’ experiences with their mentors. Their critical feedback of the program will provide useful data about what is effective and highlight areas for improvement. Because of the substantial population of students served by this intervention, the online survey provides an effective process for distribution and collection of the results (see Appendix C for the complete survey).
FGS Success 27 Feedback from the mentors is also important, which is why they will be asked to report back regularly via an Activity Report Worksheet (see Appendix B). Mentors will complete and submit this worksheet every time they participate in an event with their mentee. This supports accountability of the mentors and gives them a regular opportunity to provide feedback about their experiences. In addition, it ensures that the mentors receive the resources they need to support their mentees. Conclusion Research clearly indicates that first-generation students have unique challenges as they enter the realm of higher education. FYSM specifically addresses these issues with strategies rooted in developmental theory, helping create a campus climate more welcoming of these students. Other large universities, such as the University of Texas and Texas Tech, are investigating the needs of these students and implementing similar mentoring programs. The FYSM team discovered these similar programs only after laying out most of our own program, but we feel that the development of these other programs validates FYSM and its goals. Supporting first-generation students is important for creating an equitable educational environment that supports all students with the resources they need to succeed.
FGS Success 28 References Benishek, L. A., Bieschke, K. J., Park, J., Slattery, S. M. (2004). A multicultural feminist model of mentoring [Electronic version]. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 32, 428-442. Retrieved November 4, 2007, from the Education Abstracts database. Bui, K. T. (2002, March). First-generation college students at a four-year university: Background characteristics, reasons for pursuing higher education, and first-year experiences [Electronic version]. College Student Journal, 36, 3. Retrieved October 24, 2007, from Education Abstracts database. Casto, C., Caldwell, C., Salazar, C. F. (2005). Creating mentoring relationships between female faculty and students in counselor education: Guidelines for potential mentors and mentees [Electronic version]. Journal of Counseling and Development, 83, 331-336. Retrieved November 4, 2007, from the Education Abstracts database. Coleman, J. S., (1988). Social capital in the creation of human capital [Electronic version]. American Journal of Sociology, Supplement: Organizations and Institutions: Sociological and Economic Approaches to Analysis of Social Structure. (94), S95-S120. Retrieved November 4, 2007, from the Education Abstracts database. Cushman, K. (2007, April). Facing the culture: First-generation college students talk about identity, class, and what helps them succeed [Electronic version]. Education and Leadership, 44-47. Retrieved October 2, 2007 from Education Abstracts database. Evans, N. J., Forney, D. S., & Guido-DiBrito, F. (1998). Student Development in college: Theory, Research, and Application. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Inkelas, K. K., Daver, Z. E., Vogt, K. E., & Leonard, J. B. (2007, June). Living-learning programs and first generation college students’ academic and social transition to college
FGS Success 29 [Electronic version]. Research in Higher Education, 48, 403-434. Retrieved October 29, 2007, from the Education Abstracts database. Smith, B. (2007). Assessing social capital through the academic mentoring process [Electronic version]. Equity and Excellence in Education. 40 (1), 36-46. Retrieved October 29, 2007, from the Education Abstracts database. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics. (2000). Firstgeneration students in post-secondary education: A look at their college transcripts. Retrieved November 10, 2007, from http://nces.ed.gov/das/epubs/2005171/executive4.asp.
FGS Success 30 Appendix A-1 Campus Resources Scavenger Hunt – Memorial Union Route
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FGS Success 32 Appendix A-2 Campus Resources Scavenger Hunt – Campanile Route
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FGS Success 34 Appendix B Mentor Activity Report Worksheet
FGS Success 35 Appendix C Mentee Evaluation (Pre-test/Post-test) Note: This survey will be distributed online. It is currently live and can be accessed at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=5YNSUq5XcrGxz_2bTOuluddg_3d_3d This is how it appears when viewed on the internet with a web browser.
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FGS Success 39 Appendix D FYSM Schedule Checklist
FGS Success 40 Appendix E FYSM Logo
FGS Success 41 Appendix F FYSM Informational Brochure
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