BGSU nationally recognized for supporting first-generation students
National Association of Student Affairs Professionals names the University a "First-gen Forward" cohort
By Michael Bratton
Roughly 30% of students who attend Bowling Green State University are considered first-generation, meaning their parents never obtained a bachelor’s degree.
With guidance and support from the BGSU community, first-generation students such as Christopher Chandler say the transition to collegiate-level learning has been a positive experience.
“It was very difficult to decide if college was right for me, but in the end I knew it was,” Chandler said.
Growing up in Cincinnati, Chandler said the thought of going to college was scary as neither of his parents graduated from high school. Knowing he wanted to do better, the now junior said he began looking at universities, despite all of the unknowns, and eventually landed on BGSU.
“I knew the transition was going to be a little rough — moving away from home — so I wanted a group that I could connect with,” Chandler said.
The biology major's first days on campus were spent with Generation Falcon, an immersive summer link program in the Office of Residence Life that includes an early move-in to residence halls and helps students and their families navigate the University landscape.
“The Generation Falcon program really solidified it for me,” Chandler said. “It was really nice to know I wasn’t alone.”
Committed to serving first-generation Falcons
The University’s work on the signature series and other first-generation student initiatives contributed to it being named a “First-gen Forward” cohort by the National Association of Student Affairs Professionals (NASAP) Center for First-generation Student Success. The designation, announced on March 1, is given to a select number of colleges and universities each year that show a demonstrated commitment to supporting and improving outcomes for first-generation students.
“Our job is about changing the trajectory of a student’s life,” said Dr. Joshua Lawrie, director of Residence Life. “We know that their life can be changed by attaining that degree, and we work day in and day out helping students be successful.”
In addition to supporting students at move-in, BGSU also helps first-generation learners throughout their first year with tailored classes, events and meetings to gauge the success of their endeavors.
“It’s really about evening the playing field and giving our students the tools they need to find success at BGSU and to write what that means,” said Jennifer Grulke, residence life coordinator for leadership and administration.
Continuing to improve student experiences
Along with public recognition as a "First-gen Forward" cohort, BGSU will connect with peer institutions to share resources and evidence-based practices to maintain excellence in first-generation student education. Campus leaders will also regularly engage in professional development workshops to strengthen their knowledge and outreach for students.
“To be able to connect with other institutions and get some more ideas about what we can do to promote the success of first-generation students is really wonderful,” said Kim Brooks, associate director of Undergraduate Education. “As a public university for the public good, we really want to see those students succeed.”
The work doesn’t stop here
While leaders are pleased with the work that’s already underway to ensure first-generation students thrive at BGSU, they say there’s always room to improve. Members of the University’s first-generation committee hope to expand programming and outreach even further over the next year by adding additional advisors and connecting with second-year students more closely.
“Being recognized as a ‘First-gen Forward’ cohort shows that BGSU is committed to acknowledging and removing the barriers that first-generation college students face,” said Shaunda Brown-Rivera, assistant director for diversity. “Regardless of our role at BGSU, we all have a responsibility to support and advocate for first-gen students throughout our processes and procedures.”
Ready to take on the world
Rounding out his time at BGSU, Chandler said the University has set him up for success both in and out of the classroom thanks to the guidance and encouragement from faculty and staff. Serving as a resident advisor now, Chandler is set to graduate in Spring 2022 and hopes to begin a career in crime scene evidence analyzation after focusing on forensic science in his studies at the University.
“BGSU is a great place to be,” Chandler said. “The University has given me the resources to succeed in classes and my future career. I know I can always look back to the University if needed because we’re a big family.”