Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014

UNO Unveils Mentoring Program for First-Generation Students

UNO Unveils Mentoring Program for First-Generation Students(From left) UNO student Caitlin Murphy, 19, of New Orleans and UNO Chemistry Department Recruitment and Retention Coordinator Lindsey Jakiel discuss their expectations during the first meet-and-greet of the First-Generation Students Mentoring Program at UNO. The mentoring program is designed to help first-generation students surmount unique challenges, stay in school and achieve success.

The first member of a family to attend college faces a unique set of challenges and a new mentoring program at the University of New Orleans is designed to help first-generation students surmount those hurdles, stay in school and achieve success.

Join Us!

To learn more about the new First-Generation Student Mentoring Program at UNO, or to participate as either a mentor or mentee, contact student success counselor Nick Fuselier at njfuseli@uno.edu.

"What we've learned is that our first-generation students are not being retained at the same rate as their non-first-generation contemporaries," said UNO student success counselor Nick Fuselier. "This isn't just a UNO population problem. This is a national problem faced by first-generation students." 

A review of retention rates for the 2012-2013 academic year at UNO showed that first-generation students and non-first-generation students returned for the following semester at 62 percent and 70 percent, said Fuselier. The eight percent gap pointed to a need for support and First Year Experience is now launching a mentoring program that pairs first-generation students with a graduate student, faculty or staff member and hosts group meet-ups at least once a month. The first meet-up takes place today in the Student Success Center, located in the Privateer Enrollment Center on the first floor of the Earl K. Long Library.

Fuselier, who hopes the program will provide first-generation students with a tremendous resource and support network, said that membership in the first-generation student mentoring program is voluntary. Mentors will be required to touch base with mentees at least once a week, whether for lunch, coffee or a structured meeting to review personal and academic goals, he said. The mentor-mentee relationship will be driven by the needs and interests of the mentee. Students will be paired with mentors following a meet-and-greet match up. Recruiting started last week.

Getting started, all members will attend a review workshop that will cover topics ranging from financial aid, scholarships and student housing opportunities to time management, personal finances and faculty-student relationships, Fuselier said. Such topics are touched on during New Student Orientation and reviewed in UNIV-1001, a one-credit course attended by all first-year students, but the workshop will allow a closer review wherein first-generation students can ask probing questions with some hindsight among their peers.

Between 25 and 30 percent of the UNO population during the 2012-2013 academic year belonged to what student success counselors call the "full-time, first-time cohort," said Fuselier. The figure does not include transfer students.

"One of the main problems with first-generation students is 'You don't know what you don't know,'" said Fuselier. "We wanted to provide those students a go-to resource...who can answer questions about UNO, help them with post-college career goals; provide positive reinforcement and encouragement and serve as a guide."

Nationwide, news headlines reverberated last week with the words of First Lady Michelle Obama, who spoke out on behalf of her husband's "North Star" goal. By the year 2020, U.S. President Barack Obama wants to make the U.S. the leader in college graduation rates around the world.

"I want young people to understand that the challenges and trials and tribulations they face are not weaknesses but they are things that can make them stronger and more competent and more able to deal with challenges of getting an education going forward. No one is born smart. You become smart through hard work," the First Lady said in a video interview available on YouTube.

"We want our young people to be prepared for the jobs of the future. And as I've said, if most of those jobs in the year 2020 are going to require an education beyond high school, then we have to inform students of that and do whatever it takes to prepare them so they can grow up and raise families of their own and be successful and pursue their dreams...We don't have a choice. We have to reach that North Star."


Read More

First Year Experience
What It's Like to Be the First Person in Your Family to Go to College, The Atlantic
First-Generation Students
First in the Family
Encouraging First-Generation College Students