Ohio University

About

Housed in the Allen Student Advising Center and coordinated by first-generation college graduates who understand the unique experiences and strengths of first-generation students.

Mission

OHIO First Scholars is committed to supporting the success, persistence, and engagement of Ohio University's first-generation college students by providing proactive outreach and support programs.

These programs address the challenges first-generation students may face as they acclimate to the university while also celebrating the unique strengths they bring to our campus.

OHIO First Scholars also serves as a resource on issues related to the success, persistence, and contributions of first-generation college students on our campus.

Objectives

  • Create a visible and welcoming community of first-generation students, faculty, and staff at Ohio University.
  • Improve the academic success of first-year, first-generation students.
  • Increase the persistence of first-generation students from their first to second year.
  • Increase the academic and social integration of first-generation students.

Student Learning Outcomes

As a result of participation in the OHIO First Scholars program, first-year, first-generation college students at Ohio University will:

  • Know they are first-generation college students.
  • Recognize that there is a community of first-generation students, faculty, staff, and support resources at Ohio University.
  • Identify and utilize campus resources to support their academic success.
  • Identify and utilize campus resources to support their social integration.
  • Believe in their ability to succeed and belong at Ohio University.

History 

Below is some background on our work with first-generation students at OHIO.

In the 2010 application season, Admissions began collecting information about students' parental education levels. That information helped Ohio University identify that there was a discrepancy of 8-9% in the retention of students who had at least one parent/guardian with an associates degree or higher and the retention of students who didn't.

With two years of information confirming the retention gap, the Allen Student Advising Center staff began several initiatives for First Generation Students (FGS). A timeline of highlights is outlined below.

  • In the Fall of 2012 all FGS were included in the Map-Works early alert program, which identified students who were struggling. Advisors reached out to students who had indicated concerns, referred them to appropriate resources, and assisted them where possible. From 2012-2013 we reached out by email and phone. In spring 2014 we began reaching out to students via text message, which resulted in higher rates of interaction.
  • In the Fall of 2012 FGS were included for the first time in the midterm grade collection process and were alerted if they had a midterm grade below a C. We also followed up with students who had grades reported of higher than B- to congratulate and encourage them.
  • In Fall 2013 the Registrar added an identifier to the Faculty Advising Center to help all advisors identify their FGS advisees. Allen Center staff discussed the needs of this population at campus wide advising meetings to make sure advisors were aware of this population and things they could do specifically to assist FGS.
  • In the Spring of 2013 the Allen Student Advising Center began disseminating helpful academic messages weekly to all first-generation college students (approximately 800 - 1000 students). In the Fall of 2014 we began sending these messages to parents as well.
  • In Spring 2014 a proposal to devote a full time advisor to attend to FGS was approved, and in July 2014 Angela Lash was appointed to that position.
  • In June 2014, for the first time, FGS were invited to an additional session at Bobcat Student Orientation where they (along with their parents) met Angela Lash and became aware of the support and encouragement that she could provide for this population.
  • In the Fall of 2014 Ohio University began offering free tutoring to first-year, first-generation college students. In Spring of 2015 we were able to expand this service to include all undergraduate, Athens Campus, first-generation students.
  • In Fall 2014 26% of the incoming class was comprised of FGS, and a student organization was formed to provide camaraderie and support for these students.
  • In Fall 2015 we officially launched the OHIO First Scholars program which strives to support OHIO's first-generation college students. The program consists of all previously launched efforts with the addition of a specialized living experience through a collaboration with Housing and Residence Life, a mentoring program that matches first-year first-generation students with a faculty or staff member who was also first-gen when they earned their degree, and a seminar class offered spring term that facilitates the exploration of "first-generation" as a component of students' personal identities.
  • In Fall 2016 we continued and expanded all components of OHIO First Scholars while also launching a campus-wide first-gen awareness campaign, "First Gen" Me Too!" Campaign components included posters of faculty, staff, and students who are first-gen, door cards for faculty and staff to identify as first-gen, campus digital displays, an email signature graphic amongst other things. We also launched an OHIO First Scholars Advocates webpage where OHIO faculty and staff can self-identify as first-gen as a way for students to make campus connections.
  • In 2017 Ohio University changed its definition of "first-generation" to include students with no parent/guardian who has completed a bachelor's degree. The previous definition included only students with no parent/guardian who had completed an associate's degree. This change was made based upon research that showed the population of students added by the new definition demonstrated gaps in retention comparable to that of the population included in the previous definition. The new OHIO definition also aligns with definitions used by most other institutions in the state of Ohio and increases the percentage of first-gen students in our first-year class from approximately one fourth to one third.

We will continue to support our first-generation students and increase their success and persistence.