As a first-year at Scripps College, Melissa Mesinas ’12 struggled to adjust academically to a rigorous institution. Getting used to reading hundreds of pages every week was a challenge, but she was afraid of telling anyone that she was struggling.
It wasn’t until later that she started to sense that her first-generation identity had much to do with her trouble acclimating to Scripps. She started to wonder, “Why isn’t there formal support for first-generation students?”
During her sophomore year, some funding was available for diversity projects. She and a few staff members thought it would be a good idea to propose a pre-orientation first-gen program. The project was approved and the First Generation @ Scripps Program became a reality. Several staff members, students, and faculty participated in workshops, panels, and social activities for the inaugural 3-day program.
Four years later, the First Generation @ Scripps Program is still going strong and has developed into a robust program serving students throughout the school year. Monthly workshops focusing on the educational and social needs of first-gen students are held, such as first-gen dinners and academic skills workshops. Incoming freshmen also have the opportunity to participate in a mentoring program in which they are matched with first-gen upperclassmen. A newsletter meant to highlight the diversity and achievement of the first-gen community is produced monthly and is sent out through their listserv.
Faculty also serve a big role in the program. The “First-Gen Student-Faculty Lunches” were launched to improve the communication between faculty and first-gen students. The lunches are open to students from all class years, faculty from multiple disciplines, and staff members from a wide variety of departments. In addition to that, there is a faculty liaison to the program. The faculty liaison works to bridge partnerships between the program and other faculty.
The program is currently housed under Student Affairs and the Office of the Dean of Students. It has an assistant dean overseeing the program, in addition to two students interns. The success and growth of this program just goes to show the power of the student voice in creating more campus resources. It stands out as one of the most comprehensive first-gen programs among more selective universities.