CSU, Chico News

California State University, Chico’s Inaugural First-Generation Symposium Takes Place on Feb. 24

Date: 02-23-2017

Sean Murphy
Public Affairs

More than half of all California State University, Chico undergraduates identify as first-generation students, a topic that will be discussed during a first-of-its-kind conference at the University on Friday.

The 1st Gen Faculty and Staff Association will hold the inaugural event during the Trailblazer Symposium Series called “Cultivating Community and Connection Among 1st Generation Faculty and Staff at Chico State.”

The community-building symposium will take place in Colusa Hall, Room 100A from noon to 4 p.m. The University’s first-generation faculty and staff are invited to this free event, as are students from the CSU, Chico 1st Gen and Proud Student Association.

College students are considered first-generation if neither of their parents completed a four-year university degree.

CSU, Chico’s Office of Institutional Research found that 51 percent of the University’s undergraduate population identifies as a first-generation college student, said Tasha Alexander, director of the University’s TRiO Student Support Services program. A federal grant program funded by the U.S. Department of Education, TRiO Student Support Services helps students overcome class, social, financial and cultural barriers to higher education.

“In order to provide these students with the support they need to be successful, we must identify, understand and meet their needs,” Alexander said. “The purpose of the symposium is to bring faculty and staff together to discuss our commonalities with one another as higher education professionals and to also connect our mutual experiences with what today’s Chico State first gen students are experiencing.”

Alexander expects about 60 people to attend the inaugural symposium.

The first portion of the four-part program will start with a working lunch and welcome, with open storytelling, unique experiences, a symposium welcome by Office of Diversity and Inclusion Director Tray Robinson and a keynote by Eddie Vela, dean of the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences.

After a brief break, Javier Garcia, an advisor for Academic Advising Programs, will moderate a panel discussion. The third part consists of a faculty and staff action-planning session, followed by closing remarks by Robinson.

The University’s first-generation movement has gained traction since it was formed during the spring semester of 2016. Campus programs including the Educational Opportunity Program, TRiO Student Support Services, the Cross-Cultural Learning Center, the First-Year Experience Program and the Chico Student Success Center offer services and guidance for first-generation students who may not otherwise have the resources or support to move forward and succeed.

“This is our first-ever symposium in what we hope will be an annual series and we plan to invite community stakeholders to the next rendition,” said Alexander. “We plan to use this symposium as an opportunity for community building, agenda setting and laying the groundwork for future symposia.”

Vela, himself a first-generation student, said there are many reasons to talk about that growing demographic because higher education institutions must devise ways to ensure first-generation students succeed after they are admitted to college.

“Providing access to nontraditional students and strategies to ensure their success is not only an ethical or social justice issue, as most assuredly it is, but it also has significant social and economic implications,” Vela said. “It is in our collective best interest to be mindful of and proactive in our efforts to provide life-changing educational opportunities to all of our citizens.

Vela added, “We have to talk about first-generation students because without conversation, there is little hope for action.”