With approximately one in three students at NMSU identifying as first-generation college students, fear of the unknown can be a large obstacle to pursing a college education.
NMSU acknowledges the challenges for those students, who are the first in their families to attend a higher education institution, and offers assistance from the application process to commencement.
Recently, NMSU was selected as a First-gen Forward institution. The designation from the Center for First-Generation Student Success, which is an initiative of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and the Suder Foundation, recognizes higher education institutions for their commitment to first-generation student success.
“New Mexico State has been at the forefront of serving first-generation college students,” said Tony Marin, assistant vice president of student affairs. “First-generation college students demonstrate resiliency and a strong work ethics in pursuit of a college degree and career. Their resiliency is demonstrated from gaining accessing higher education to persisting, graduating and realizing career success.”
Marin, Vandeen McKenzie, director of university financial aid and scholarship services, and Carlos Posadas, criminal justice associate professor, who are all first-generation college graduates, are leading the effort as a First-gen Forward campus.
This designation will allow NMSU to have access to evidence-based practices, professional development and knowledge to advance the success of first-generation college students.
“Today, first-generation students are still facing some of the similar struggles that we faced years back,” said Posadas, who teaches courses and helps students with advising and internships. “Information is so powerful and missing. How do they ask for help when they don’t know what is out there?”
McKenzie agrees not knowing what information is needed and where to find the information to attend college are hurdles for first-generation students and their family, especially when not everyone has internet access.
“We are in a technological desert. We know we have that issue,” McKenzie said. “Getting information to students at the appropriate time is critical.”
Currently, first-generation student initiatives at NMSU include the annual first-generation college student celebration day held in November, first-generation faculty/staff survey and services provided by federally and privately funded mentoring programs. The initiatives allow NMSU to honor and support first-generation students, while striving to better serve their needs.
Marin said he believes this designation is a benefit for students.
“This designation allows NMSU to conduct a self-study of sorts. For the initiatives that NMSU has demonstrated success, the need to scale them up in order to have a larger impact on student success and social mobility is an anticipated outcome of our participation as a First-gen Forward campus,” Marin said.
As a First-gen Forward institution, the designation also allows the university to align with three of its goals in NMSU LEADS 2025, including Goal 1 Enhance Student Success and Social Mobility, Goal 2 Amplify Outreach and Extension and Goal 4 Build a Robust University.
Author: Tiffany Acosta