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K-State Today

April 22, 2019

Higher Learning Commission and First-Generation Students Success update

Submitted by Brian Niehoff

Dear K-State Family,

The Higher Learning Commission, or HLC, requires all institutions to develop and implement an initiative that meets a strategic priority. Two years ago, K-State decided to make first-generation student success the focus of our quality initiative. The initial step toward that end was the creation of an advisory committee to direct the efforts of the initiative. The advisory committee was formed in spring 2018 and has been working during the past year to assess, recommend, and act on the goals of the initiative.

The initiative, "Improving the Graduation and Persistence Rates of First-Generation Students," seeks to raise the profile of K-State to be considered a national model for first-generation student success. The primary goals of the initiative are to increase first-time full-time freshmen retention rates of first-generation students and to increase graduation rates of first-generation students to match the graduation rates of non-first-generation students. A report on our progress toward the goals of the initiative will be written as part of the university's renewal of accreditation in 2022, with plans to continue its efforts beyond that point.

The advisory committee has spent the past year examining K-State's practices in recruitment, pre-college programs, curricular/academic support systems, co-curricular support systems, administrative support, pre-career support, and graduation preparation of first-generation students. The committee met regularly throughout the past year, working on tasks in subgroups dedicated to communications, teaching and learning, resource analysis and barriers.

Prior to the formation of the advisory committee, a generous grant from the Suder Foundation provided funding for an Office of First-generation Students. Rebeca Paz was appointed as the assistant director of the office. The office serves as a focal point for communications with first-generation students. In its initial year, the office has developed programs for first-generation students and supports a first-generation student organization. With the advisory committee's assistance, the office has made progress on a number of initiatives in this past year, including:

• Launching the first-generation student website.
• Building a mentoring network for first-generation students to include faculty and staff.
• Increasing the number of first-generation student-focused CAT Communities and first-year seminars.
• Developing recruitment materials targeting first-generation students.
• Identifying entry-level classes that use high-impact practices.
• Seeking additional grants to help fund new initiatives for first-generation students.
• Developing a peer-to-peer mentoring program for first-generation students.
• Initiating a first-generation student graduation celebration in May 2018, with a second reception planned for May 2019.

Moving forward, the committee plans to continue working toward improving the recruitment and retention of first-generation students, which will include the early identification of first-generation status during the recruitment process as well as seeking funding for additional need-based scholarships.

The advisory committee was formed in spring 2018. Representation on the committee includes: 

• Brian Niehoff, associate provost for institutional effectiveness and HLC liaison, co-chair.
• Stephanie Bannister, assistant vice president for student life, co-chair. 
• Sandra Avalos, advisor, College of Education.
• LaVerne Bitsie-Baldwin, director, multicultural engineering program, College of Engineering.
• Don Boggs, associate dean of academic programs, College of Agriculture.
• Leena Chakrabarti, associate director for student services, English Language Program.
• Kevin Cook, associate director, Housing and Dining Services, Student Life.
• Brad Cunningham, university advising services coordinator, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Studies.
• Gregory Eiselein, professor of English, College of Arts and Sciences, and director of K-State First.
• Lynn Ewanow, associate dean, College of Architecture, Planning & Design.
• Kathleen Greene, director, Educational Supportive Services.
• Brenee King, project administrator, KS-LSAMP.
• Brian Lindshield, associate professor of food, nutrition, dietetics and health, College of Human Ecology.
• Dawne Martin, assistant dean for diversity, College of Business Administration.
• Jo Maseberg-Tomlinson, program administration coordinator, Global Campus.
• Kiley Moody, managing director of scholar services, Office of First-generation Students.
• Rebeca Paz, assistant director, Office of First-generation Students.
• Madai Rivera, assistant director of student engagement, Student Life.
• Adrian Rodriguez, associate vice president, Diversity and Multicultural Student Affairs, Student Life.
• Bryan Samuel, chief diversity and inclusion officer, Office of the President.
• Alison Wheatley, associate dean of students, College of Arts and Sciences.
• Bryon Williams, assistant director of New Student Services, Student Life.
• RJ Youngblood, assistant director of the Academic Achievement Center, Student Life.

The committee will be providing regular updates on its progress, along with announcing events that are open to the university community. The committee seeks to engage community going forward, and requests that all are invited to provide feedback on any efforts where first-generation students are either being served well already, or areas where additional work is needed. To assist the committee in this effort, please complete this Qualtrics survey. Your assistance is welcomed and appreciated toward our goal of being a national model for the success of our first-generation students.

Thank you for your all that you do! Go Cats!

The First-Generation Student Success Initiative Advisory Committee