Return to Program Profiles McKendree University

McKendree Firsts was an initiative of the McKendree University’s new First-Generation Student Success Office. As off-campus and online programs at the university increased, the university made it a goal to expand academic support services for those students located outside of the Lebanon, Illinois, campus. With support of the CIC/Walmart College Success Award, the university expanded online tutoring and created a system of support for first-generation students, including the construction of a website for students and their families. Three online workshops were developed: “What It Takes to Be a Successful Student,” “Time Management: Strategies for Success,” and “Understanding and Avoiding Plagiarism.” These workshops can be accessed at any time by all McKendree students.

In addition, 20 scholarships for first-generation students were awarded. This system of support has been designed to meet the various needs of first-generation students, including but not limited to, financial support.
In fall 2012 the college established a living and learning community specifically for first-year, first-generation students. This program provided the option to first-generation students of rooming with other first-generation students in one of the newest residence halls on the main campus. First-generation students also are developing a Registered Student Organization, evidence of their deep relationship with the university.

Program Outcomes

The collective GPA of first-generation students in the targeted campus population of this program (adult, extended campus, and online students) was lower than that of non-first-generation students at the beginning of the academic year, but by the completion of the year, first-generation students made even stronger gains than non-first-generation students. Students admitted in fall 2010 had a GPA of 2.8 at the end of their first semester, but by the end of their second year, their GPA had increased to 2.88. Looking at the two groups of “All Students” and “First Generation” students for the same period shows some encouraging results. First-generation students admitted in the fall 2010 semester had a GPA of 2.65. Like the “All Student” data, the first-generation students’ mean GPA fell in spring 2012, but from that point forward made steady improvement. The first-generation mean GPA at the end of the 2012 academic year was 2.8. Considering the first semester’s disparity of .15 between the sets of students, closing the GPA gap was a positive trend.
As awareness of the university’s first-generation student population has increased, the entire university community, located at sites across the state of Illinois and two Kentucky campuses, has collectively increased a variety of services for these students.
Online tutoring is now available in all disciplines to all students at campuses across Illinois and Kentucky. The online tutoring benefits first-generation students, many of whom are enrolled in off-campus and online programs, but is not limited to them. In addition, increased outreach to first-generation students has resulted in students using academic support services in greater numbers than in any year on record. For example, in the fall semesters of 2009 and 2010, an average of 159 students used services at the writing center. In fall 2011, 312 students used the center—an increase of 50.8 percent. As a result of the award, collaboration among campus offices has increased and played a pivotal role in student success.

Program Updates

McKendree University is committed to continuing its work with and for first-generation students and will continue funding the salary of the first-generation student success staff member. A first-generation graduate of the university, herself, she volunteered through AmeriCorps VISTA to organize a first-generation student success mentoring program.