Saint Mary's College Launches Center for First Generation to College Studies

For Immediate Release
Michael McAlpin
Director of Media Relations
(925) 631-4222

MORAGA, Calif. (May 26, 2009)  Saint Mary's College of California announces the creation of the Center for First Generation to College Studies. The researchers at the new center will focus on first generation college students through the lenses of sociology and anthropology. They will research the cultural factors that contribute to the academic success of some "first gen" students and the challenges facing others who fail to complete their college degrees.

"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," said Phylis Martinelli, professor of sociology and co-director of the center.

According to a recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California, the state will fall short, by about one million college graduates, of its work-force needs by 2025. A shortfall, in part, due to an increase in population among groups with historically low rates of college attendance and graduation, Latinos in particular.

"Low college graduation rates for students can be influenced by the educational experiences of their parents or their lack of experience," said Martinelli.

The Center for First Generation to College Studies will serve as a repository of "college knowledge" for first generation students at Saint Mary's and other institutions of higher education. It will serve as a research clearinghouse and expand a current Internet database of testimonials from successful first generation students designed to provide inspiration to 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," said Dana Hererra, anthropology professor and co-director of the center.

The Center for First Generation to College Studies will share its research findings through its website, podcasts, videos, academic conferences and print publications. For more information, go to