Focus on First Generation College Students

Esther Montoya-Taylor ’09 was a first generation college student.

Professors Phylis Martinelli and Dana Herrera are co-directors of SMC’s new Center for First Generation to College Studies, which was announced by Provost Beth Dobkin in May.

Researchers will study first generation college students through the lenses of sociology and anthropology, looking at cultural factors that contribute to the academic success of some “first gen” students and the challenges facing those who fail to finish college.

“The need for more research into this area is imperative. Demographic data indicates a rise in the number of students heading to college who are the first in their families to pursue higher education,” Martinelli says.

The Center for First Generation to College Studies will also house an expanded Internet database of testimonials from successful first generation students to inspire other first generation students.

“The center will not only examine unexplored cultural factors into the success of some first generation students, it will collaborate with other departments at Saint Mary’s to provide support and serve as a resource for first generation students who may experience a sense of isolation while at college,” Herrera says.

The center will share its research findings through its website, podcasts, videos, academic conferences and print publications.