Return to Program Profiles Stetson University

The CIC/Walmart College Success Award allowed Stetson University to enhance the college experience for its first-generation students. The university made great strides toward a more cohesive and systematic process where incoming first-generation students were offered the potential to establish and benefit from mentoring relationships with first-generation upper-level students through the SU First Generation Peer Mentoring (SU First) program. Peer mentors were provided a one-week training session, and this training was subsequently broadened to other groups.
Stetson’s Student Success initiative sponsored several events geared toward first-generation college students, ranging from an alumni dinner to an official welcome reception held for students and parents during orientation weekend. In spring 2011, Student Success welcomed a new student success coach who launched SU First, primarily as the mentoring program. In addition to providing mentoring opportunities for incoming students and coordinating events for first-generation students, SU First provided select first-generation upper-class students the opportunity to be trained as mentors. The SU First peer mentors have been integral in developing the program and events catered to the first-generation population.
In addition, summers 2011 and 2012 included an SU First Summer Bridge Day for incoming first-generation students and their families. These one-day programs provided a range of information, from transitioning into college academically and socially, to fiscal literacy, to personal experiences of first-generation Stetson students. The 2012 SU First Summer Bridge Day was co-marketed with Hatter Trek, a five-day, pre-college excursion for incoming students. First-generation students who attended both the SU First Summer Bridge Day and DeLand “All-Access Pass” Hatter Trek had the ability to experience the campus and community first-hand before starting in the fall and had extended quality time with the SU First peer mentors. Significantly, the university has seen 100 percent retention with students participating in Hatter Treks.

Program Outcomes

First-year, first-generation students performed and persisted at nearly identical rates. While first-year students in fall 2009, 2010, and 2011 had retention rates of 92 percent, 94 percent, and 93 percent, respectively, the university’s first-year, first-generation students were retained at comparable rates of 88 percent, 91 percent, and 93 percent.
For the first-generation class entering in 2009, the end-of-fall semester mean GPA was 2.70 versus 2.75 for all first-year students. The GPAs for both groups rose at the end of the academic year—to 2.78 for first-generation students and to 2.83 for the larger group. That pattern persisted through 2011 and 2012—with the first-generation students being slightly outperformed by the larger group.
Similarly, retention patterns were slightly higher for all students than for the first-generation students. The differences were so small, however, that given the academic deficiencies of many first-generation students the program was considered effective in leading to increased retention and improved academic performance.
The campus culture has improved for first-generation students, and the institution has been strengthened by it. The university has collected a large amount of data about its first-generation students, and this information is shaping future programming.

Program Updates

Stetson’s College Success program continues, as well as its SU First program for first-generation students.