Return to Program Profiles College of Mount Saint Vincent

The College of Mount Saint Vincent Walmart Scholars program focused on first-generation commuter students with the goal of improving their retention and persistence to graduation. First-generation commuter students are a population with needs that differ from those of other first-generation students.  These students often have busy employment schedules, and they find it harder to make campus connections because they do not live in the residence halls. It also is more challenging to get these students engaged in co-curricular activities.
To address these challenges, students participating in the Commuter Assistant (CA) program were provided with peer advisors. Numerous breakfast and lunchtime programs were scheduled and covered topics such as academic support services, counseling services, and the challenges of being a commuter student. In the first year of the program, the college provided students with an array of social and cultural learning opportunities, including gatherings on campus and field trips to such sites as New York City’s Guggenheim Museum and the American Museum of Natural History as well as trips to see several Broadway shows.
The college’s original plan included the Parent Support Initiative, an ambitious schedule of activities for parents of first-generation commuter students. Over the course of the year, however, it became apparent that the busy schedules of family members could not accommodate the number of on-campus activities planned by the college. The number of events for parents decreased from four to two, and the program increased communication with parents through email and newsletters during the 2009–2010 academic year.


Program Outcomes

The program succeeded in retaining first-generation commuters, the targeted campus population, at rates comparable with their peers and, for the most part, first-generation students had only slightly lower GPAs than their fellow students. These results are seen as increased retention and improved academic performance relative to expectations.


Program Updates

The Commuter Assistant Program and Parent Support Initiatives continue, although the termination of grant funds has required trimming of staff and more shared responsibilities.