New first generation programming to fulfill student needs

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Photo by Patrick Goodman

Over the past few years, the University of Dallas has seen a large increase in first generation students, according to Director of Financial Aid Taryn Anderson. In the class of 2023, 20% are first generation students. 

There are two new scholarship opportunities being implemented to help first generation students.

The first, which will be available next fall to the incoming freshmen, includes a “summer bridge” experience, enhanced student advising for all first generation students and scholarship funding for Pell eligible first generation students, according to Anderson. This is made possible by a grant from the Constantin Foundation.

The first generation advising will be available to all first generation students on campus, starting next year. 

The second is an endowment fund started by Drs. Thomas and Stacey Hibbs. President Hibbs is a first generation student. 

“Due to the nature of endowment funds and how they must be fully funded and then mature before producing a scholarship, the inaugural award for this scholarship will not be Fall 2020,” Anderson  said in an email. “In the future we anticipate selecting a student or students each year to receive this award.”

About his experience as a first generation student, Dr. Hibbs said, “There’s a good bit of evidence that first generation students really flourish in contacts where they get significant interaction with professors and with other students where academic matters are discussed outside of class. And that was certainly true for me. I’m really grateful for the kind of support I got here. I think UD is a great place for first generation students.” 

Though first generation students are happy to be at UD, their college experience is not without its own particular struggles. 

“My parents never got higher than an elementary education, but took classes in the U.S. for their respective professions,” said Estrella Bustamante, a sophomore double majoring in psychology and philosophy “They are self-made, so I really didn’t know much about the college process coming here.” 

In addition to the difficulty navigating the college process, Bustamente said it can be challenging to share the importance of college to those without such an experience.  

“It’s also a lot harder for them to understand my love for the school and the community since they never had a chance to experience that. It’s hard for them to understand why I want to pursue a PhD in psychology and dedicate my time and efforts to it.”

For  senior biology major Amandhi Mathews, being a first generation international student has an additional set of problems.

International students have financial, academic and personal issues while having to adjust to college away from a support system. Mathews said that the issues of first generation students and international students overlap. 

“It’s hard for me to say when the struggles of being international ends and the ones of being first-gen starts, it’s as if they are all the same.

Dr. Steven Foutch, the chair of the art department, was also a first generation student. After working in a factory for three years after graduating high school, he enrolled in college to study art. Foutch then gained his MFA at the University of Notre Dame. 

“I was always a little sad that I couldn’t talk with my parents in depth about the struggles and joys of college,” said Foutch. “They were very happy for me, but I often felt that they didn’t understand how hard college could be as they could only compare it to their physically draining jobs. At the time I just wanted them to understand how incredibly difficult it was.”

When asked what the UD community could do to provide support for first generation students, Mathews and Bustemante suggested that UD should host student panels specifically for first generation students. Furthermore, UD should increase the availability of academic advising  and establish a support system for students. 

The grant from the Constantin Foundation will support the counseling and mentoring resources suggested by our current first generation students. 

In regards to the scholarships, Bustamante stated, “A scholarship specifically for first gen students would be extremely helpful and give more opportunity for first gens who really have a determination to go to college and improve their lives and their families’ lives in that sense. I can’t think of a better place to do that than UD.”

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