Developing a Comprehensive System of Support for First-Generation Students

Developing a Comprehensive System of Support for First-Generation Students

September 29 - October 1, 2021 | Eastern Time

Learn about tried-and-true strategies for first-generation student success and new work being done during the pandemic and its aftermath to support first-generation student success.


Many college campuses are celebrating that their first-generation (first-gen) student population has grown exponentially in the past five years, with some reporting 24-40% of their student body identifying as first-gen. At the same time, we know that institutional and external barriers can create roadblocks on the path toward graduation and that the COVID pandemic has disproportionally impacted first-gen students.

This virtual conference is designed to give you a variety of tools to best support your first-gen population and to give them the best chance at success. This year, our speakers will highlight how they have been responsive to the needs of first-gen students throughout the pandemic and its continuing aftermath. They will also discuss the strengths that first-gen students bring to our campuses and address ways that institutions can proactively meet first-generation students where they are. You will learn how to:

  • Take an intersectional approach to break down barriers to academic success
  • Create connections with families to foster holistic student support
  • Build a network of career resources to help students navigate an uncertain job market
  • Define success and develop holistic forms of program assessment
  • Explore funding models to support first-generation initiatives on campus

Throughout these three days, we will examine comprehensive models of how institutions help their first-gen students thrive on campus and complete their degrees. The speakers bring a diverse set of perspectives from each of their unique institutions—ranging from Community Colleges to Public Research Universities. You will learn what makes each program exceptional and successful, and you will have opportunities to begin creating or improving your own support system for first-gen students.


Who Should Attend

This program is ideal for professionals who offer academic support to first-gen students and lead student success initiatives—whether from community colleges or four-year institutions. In addition, we recommend that leaders from the following areas attend:

  • Academic Affairs
  • Student Affairs
  • Enrollment Management
  • Admissions


Follow Through With Success Coaching

Have you ever gone to a training only to find that you came back with great ideas but don’t have the time, support, or skills needed to make the changes?

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As a result, we are now offering success coaching on select conferences.

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  • Workshop your plans, run your ideas by someone and get additional help/practice.

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The Academic Impressions Online Learning Experience

Intentionally Designed
Online Learning

Our virtual trainings go far beyond just replicating PowerPoint presentations online: these experiences are intentionally designed to give you the kind of robust and dynamic learning experience you’ve come to expect from Academic Impressions. These trainings provide you with an active learning environment and an online space where you can explore ideas, get inspired by what your peers are doing, and understand the range of possibilities around a certain topic. You will leave these sessions with practical solutions that you can take back to your team or task force.

What you will get:

  • A dynamic, interactive, and high-touch virtual learning experience designed to engage and set you up for growth
  • Seamless online face-time, networking, group work, and Q&A opportunities from the comfort of your own workspace
  • Practical takeaways and hands-on knowledge
  • Guidance from vetted subject matter experts

See What Our Attendees are Saying

“The virtual design of this conference coupled with the amazing work of our program manager promoted a high level of engagement and sense of community among attendees. The speakers were knowledgeable and enthusiastic to share their experiences. It was a refreshing shift from long days of traditional meetings on Zoom!”

“This is the first time I’ve ever attended a virtual conference, and to be honest, I had low expectations. Well, I was wrong. I am very impressed with the platform used and the quality of the content shared. Oftentimes, these conferences only talk about ideas and what could work, but at this event, actual pathways and practical next steps were shared. Academic Impressions did a great job featuring quality speakers who were willing to share what they know.”

“Although the workshop was online, it felt as if the presenters were right there with us. All presenters were knowledgeable and really related the content to real work experiences. They were so willing to answer questions and offer assistance—I learned so much that I can apply.”

“Many conferences leave you with learning but not always sure how to turn that into action for your organization. There were actionable tips shared throughout the two days and tools provided to help move the learning into action. I am always impressed with Academic Impressions conferences and this virtual one did not disappoint.”

"At first, I was skeptical that a virtual conference was capable of being both engaging and informational - but Academic Impressions has mastered it! The 3-day online event was structured in a creative way that all participants had multiple opportunities to interact with each other and the presenters. No one's questions went unheard or unanswered. Thank you for this great experience, it has changed my view of virtual conferences and I look forward to attending more in the future."

- Desiree Ford, Digital Communications Manager, Binghamton University

“The virtual conference has been amazing. The presenters have all been great and the information they’ve provided is going to help us better use our social media. Even though this conference had to be virtualized due to COVID-19, the online format has been set up in a way that we can all collaborate and share ideas. I’m very eager to take what I’ve learned back to campus and start implementing new ideas.”

- Chris Forde, Coordinator of Marketing & Public Information, Lincoln Trail College


DAY ONE - September 29, 2021

(All times in Eastern)


Welcome and Introductions

12:00 - 12:15 p.m. ET



Defining First-Gen

12:15 - 1:15 p.m. ET
In our first session, we will begin with the deceptively simple task of defining what it means to be a first-generation student and why it is important to craft a definition in the first place. Definitions, which impact qualification for programs and aid, vary across institutions, agencies, and governments. Some first-gen students may not be aware of the identity and how it can help them navigate their college journey. Our speakers will introduce themselves by sharing their takes on the definition and what it means from their personal experiences, as well as their institutions. Then participants will be encouraged to introduce themselves and where their institutions currently stand.




1:15 - 1:30 p.m. ET



Pre-Arrival: Setting the Stage for First-Generation Success

1:30 - 2:30 p.m. ET
Setting up first-gen students for success begins before the first day of class. In this session, you will learn how community colleges and four-year institutions have provided programs prior to the beginning of the term that help first-gen students to connect to their new environment and prepare for the exciting journey ahead of them. Our experts will give you insights to the organizational structure of their first-gen support programs and how mentoring programs can contribute to first-gen success.




2:30 - 3:00 p.m. ET



College Knowledge: Helping First-Gen Students Acclimate to Academia - A Two-Year and Four-Year Institutional Perspective

3:00 - 4:00 p.m. ET
One of the more nuanced challenges that many first-gen students face is how to acclimate to college. Being the first in your family to go to college is an exciting and admirable accomplishment. However, many of these students find themselves missing a “hidden curriculum” that can include how to study and manage time, how to access resources, how to interpret college jargon, and how to be involved and get the most out of the college experience. This session will highlight successful programs that have shown a positive impact on helping first-gen students thrive, not just survive, in college.



Day 1 Wrap-Up and Networking Session

4:00 - 4:30 p.m. ET
As we conclude our first day together, you will have an opportunity to prioritize your challenges with first-gen student success. We will identify themes that will be threaded throughout the remaining sessions of the conference. The speakers will be available for consulting and discussion. We will finish the day by sharing ideas and preparing for Day Two.


DAY TWO - September 30, 2021

(All times in Eastern)


Optional Networking Session

11:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. ET
Feel free to join us during this optional session to informally chat and network with your peers.



Day 2 Opening Remarks

12:00 - 12:15 p.m. ET



The Importance of an Intersectional Approach: Supporting Black First-Gen Students

12:15 - 1:15 p.m. ET
While there are common experiences first-gen students may have, it is important to recognize the vast diversity among first-gen students and their needs. In this session, we’ll examine an intersectional approach to celebrating and supporting first-gen students with a special focus on strategies to support the success of Black first-gen students in the context of both the pandemic, its aftermath, and racial injustice. While this opening session is dedicated to an intersectional approach, this lens will be woven throughout the entire program.




1:15 - 1:30 p.m. ET



Providing Academic Support for First-Gen Students

1:30 - 2:30 p.m. ET
From providing provisional admission with support to reducing time to degree completion, institutions that are successful with first-gen students provide a myriad of resources that engage and support students. Our experts will share examples of successful programs that have provided academic support to help first-gen students overcome hurdles and obtain their degree, as well as new strategies they’ve had to implement to support students facing challenges during the pandemic and its aftermath.




2:30 - 3:00 p.m. ET



Connecting Families of First-Gen Students to the Institution: A Two-Year and Four-Year Institutional Perspective

3:00 - 4:00 p.m. ET
One of the keys to retaining first-gen students is to make the family feel welcome and connected to the student’s educational experience. We will discuss how to engage parents as partners in student success and how to help both the student and the family through this transition, including: creating activities that help to bridge cultural gaps, including parents in activities, and giving students tools for communicating about their college lives. Our speakers will share the evolving family challenges students face as they navigate a socially distanced college experience and remote learning.



Working Session:

4:00 - 4:30 p.m. ET
You will have an opportunity to workshop what you have learned during the morning sessions and consider how you might adopt or adapt similar practices. The speakers will be available for discussion and consultation.


DAY THREE - October 1, 2021

(All times in Eastern)


Day 3 Opening Remarks

12:00 - 12:15 p.m. ET



Engaging and Celebrating First-Gen Students and Faculty

12:15 - 1:15 p.m. ET
Institutions often struggle to support first-gen students as many of them hide their status or are unaware that they may qualify as first-gen. By helping students to self-identify, your student support teams are better able to connect them with first-gen faculty, alumni, and other students. Hearing from others who have had similar experiences and learning how they coped and dealt with various difficult challenges can be the catalyst the first-gen student needs to feel valued and understood and to complete their degree successfully.

NOTE: We encourage you to share examples of your first-gen “swag” or other communications when we discuss how to identify and celebrate first-gen faculty and students on your campus.




1:15 - 1:30 p.m. ET



Broadening Career Considerations for First-Gen Students

1:30 - 2:45 p.m. ET
Many first-gen students may not have a broad understanding of the variety of industries or job options available upon graduation. In this session, you will hear how other universities have helped first-gen students explore the many possibilities for careers and make informed decisions about their degrees. You will also learn how students can tap into their existing strengths in order to be prepared for an uncertain future.




2:45 - 3:15 p.m. ET



Funding and Assessment in Times of Pandemic: Making the Case for More Support

3:15 - 3:45 p.m. ET
In this session, our speakers will share their knowledge and hands-on experience obtaining funding to support their first-gen initiatives. They will discuss defining and redefining success beyond graduation and retention for a more holistic approach to assessment. Then, they will share how their institutions have utilized assessment data on the impact of their first-gen support programs to make the case for additional programming and resources.



Taking Action: Final Working Session

3:45 - 4:15 p.m. ET
This final working session will allow you time to plan your first action steps upon finishing the conference. You will share and receive feedback from your peers and the conference speakers. We will also tie these action steps back to the priorities you identified in the introductory session.



Conference Wrap Up, and Evaluations

4:15 - 4:30 p.m. ET


Portrait of Cynthia Mosqueda

Cynthia Mosqueda

Faculty Coordinator for the First Year Experience Program, El Camino College

Cynthia has received the First Year Advocate Award from the National Center for First Year Experience and Students in Transition for her work in helping first-year students transition into college life.

Read Speaker's Full Bio.

Portrait of Julie Nash

Julie Nash

Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, University of Massachusetts Lowell

In her current role, Julie oversees undergraduate education and faculty support at the University, including curriculum, accreditation, and pedagogy. Prior to serving as vice provost, she served as Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in the College of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences; as Honors Director; and as Gender Studies Director.

Read Speaker's Full Bio.

Portrait of Daphne Rankin

Daphne Rankin

Associate Vice President for Summer Studies and Special Programs, Virginia Commonwealth University

Daphne has extensive experience in student transition, retention, and success. Her team at VCU has developed You First at VCU, a network of programs and initiatives for first-generation students that addresses academic success, social integration, and family support.

Read Speaker's Full Bio.

portrait of LaTonya Rease Miles

La’Tonya Rease Miles

Dean of Student Affairs, Menlo College

La'Tonya "LT" Rease Miles specializes in student development among diverse and underrepresented populations. Her established programs for first-generation college students—at UCLA and at Loyola Marymount University—were national Best Practices models, transforming both universities into First-Gen Forward institutions. 

Read Speaker's Full Bio.



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through Sept. 22, 2021

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Questions About the Event?

Portrait of Jenna Ledford

Jenna Ledford
Learning & Development Manager,
Academic Impressions

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