By: Annie Bierman.Published: February 11, 2011.

McK_First_Gen_studentsA first-generation college student, according to McKendree’s definition, is any student whose parents have not graduated from a four-year college or university. Across the United States in 2009, 30 percent were first-gen students. McKendree’s statistic is even higher than the national average at 44 percent of undergraduate students on the Lebanon campus in 2009.

As the statistics show, 44 percent of incoming first-year McKendree students are first-generation college students. As a first-generation student myself, the process of applying, enrolling, financing, and starting college four years ago was a confusing headache. I realized after my first year in college that there was a secret language to university life that I had not quite learned yet. This type of confusion is exactly what the new university program is here to combat!

The “McKendree Firsts” program along with the Office of First-Generation Student Success opened in July 2010 with the hopes of helping students succeed at McKendree, not just get by. Dr. Brenda Boudreau, Professor of English at McKendree, directed the project and received a $50,000 grant from The Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) and the Wal-Mart Foundation. With this grant, McKendree hired Lisa Brennan, current English department adjunct, to be the Coordinator of the First-Generation Student Success program. Commenting on the purpose of the program, Brennan said, “Since beginning the program in July, McKendree students, faculty, and staff have begun to dialogue more about first-generation students and how we can all become less exclusive and more INCLUSIVE of all students:  transfer students, non-traditional students, students at our KY campuses, and in our AiM programs.”

The program offers $1,000 dollar scholarships for 10 first-generation students each year who show academic merit along with financial need, academic support services both on campus and online, referrals to McKendree offices and referrals to services and professionals within the communities of the first-generation students. To reach Lisa Brennan in the Office of First-Generation Student Success, students can email lcbrennan@mckendree.edu, call X 2150, stop by Clark Hall 201, or visit the website at http://www.mckendree.edu/1st_Gen. As Lisa Brennan said, “The program is really not for first-generation students but for McKendree as a whole.  In fact, research shows us that programs put into place to benefit first-generation students ends up helping ALL students.”

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