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TRIO staff inspires Lopers

The Antelope Newspaper

Faculty work to acknowledge, support first generation students


In partnership with TRIO Student Support Services, Dr. Paul Thayer led discussion on first generation students Thursday in the Student Union. UNK faculty now bolsters the search for ways to support the first-generation community. 

As a first-generation student and experienced advisor, Dr. Thayer has seen how these students are viewed by faculty, peers, and how they view themselves. 

“From the side of faculty and staff, it isn’t fully taken into account what it means to be the pioneer for your family in education and the honorary place that holds,” said Thayer, special advisor to the Provost and associate Vice President Emeritus at Colorado State University. “From the students’ point of view I think there tends to be a perpetual sense of not fully belonging.”

The multiplying effects of the success of a first-generation student in college has implications for a whole society and for a whole state

Dr. Paul Thayer

Faculty are working to break this cycle. In 2016, 45 percent of first year students and 48 percent of seniors at UNK were first generation college students. These numbers have remained consistent and serve as a reminder of how important these students are to UNK. TRIO has been guiding this boost of advocation in the hopes that students will be proud of where they came from and know they have support. 

Rashawn Harvey, a first-generation student and UNK alumnus, sees faculty as a resource and as an example for these students. 

“We want to let them know there are people who have gone through the experience they are going through,” said Harvey, an advisor and assistant director of TRIO. “Our TRIO advisors are all first-generation students and we can very much relate to these students.” 

TRIO is now urging employees and faculty that were first generation students to be proud representatives at UNK. By sharing experience and realizing how many staff are first generation, these students may build better relationships with professors and advisors. With nearly half of UNK’s student population being first generation, this is a big request for staff to fulfill. In response to this, David Luker, UNK’s Director of Academic Success, looks to forming an advisory board to focus on first generation faculty and students.

Faculty have determined first-generation students as too crucial to ignore.

“Often times we see people coming back to school later in life because a younger person in the family earned a degree,” Thayer said. “The multiplying effects of the success of a first-generation student in college has implications for a whole society and for a whole state.”

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