This is the first of our episodes that will highlight resources and programs at CSU, Chico. We are joined by Kylee Sharp to learn what the college of Humanities and […]
Episode 1- A Warm Welcome (Transcription)
students, first generation students, chico state, teresa, college, generation, people, graduating, campus, experience, podcast, helping, higher education, felt, education, years, happening, guests, talking, numbers
Joshuah Whittinghill, Teresa Hernandez
Introduction Music 00:45
joshuah whittinghill 00:49
As we are recording this podcast in Chico, California and are employed by the University, we acknowledge and are mindful that CSU, Chico stands on lands that were originally occupied by the first people of this area, and we recognize the Mechoopda and their distinctive spiritual relationship with this land and the waters that run through campus. We are humbled that our campus resides upon sacred lands that once sustained the Mechoopda people for centuries.
Teresa Hernandez 01:17
Hello, everyone. My name is Teresa Hernandez, and I am joined with my co-host, Joshuah Whittinghill. Hey, Josh.
joshuah whittinghill 01:25
Hello, Teresa. I am so excited now to finally be recording our first episode, and to be doing it with you.
Teresa Hernandez 01:32
Thank you. Yes, it’s a long time coming. I’m super excited to be brought along on this project. But we’ll go into that a little bit deeper later, I want to welcome you all to our podcast first generation one of many. Our mission is to create an archive of discussions with and about first-generation student experiences in and out of the classroom. We hope to continue raising awareness and understanding provide a voice for students and alumni as well as present resources for faculty and staff working with our first-generation students.
joshuah whittinghill 02:03
Thank you. And to start our episodes, we’re going to have a quote, a poem or a lyric for each episode that kind of ties into the theme and the discussion. So, today’s comes from Michelle Obama. “When I first arrived at school, as a first-generation college student, I didn’t know anyone on campus except my brother. I didn’t know how to pick the right classes or find the right buildings. I didn’t even bring the right size sheets for my dorm room bed. I didn’t realize those beds were so long. So, I was a little overwhelmed, and a little isolated.”
joshuah whittinghill 02:38
And when we found this quote Teresa and I decided that really helps to sum up kind of the overarching themes that we’re going to be talking about on these episodes, and the mission of our story to kind of really share different experiences that students are having as first generation in higher education. And as I mentioned, it’s so exciting for me to be finally doing this podcast, it’s been a couple of years in the making for me. Behind the scenes, I had some ideas of certain topics for podcasts, and they all just sort of never really melded together. And then finally, moving into the idea of first generation being a focus of the podcasts really took hold. And I was able to find a number of people who were interested, but mostly interested in being guests, are coming on to talk about certain things right and sharing certain things. And no one had the time to be able to be a host or co-host because it does take a little time behind the scenes. I know Teresa and I do a lot after hours and on the weekends for this podcast to make sure that we are able to get things organized and have topics and reach out to certain guests. And we’ve been able to send out a survey to get input from people who might be interested and really collect all this information. But one of the major obstacles, and I have to put it out there is that myself, I am not first generation. And so it was extremely important for me to have a co-host who does identify as first generation to be able to bring that experience and that perspective and lens into the podcast as well, to really help me even learn more as we’re approaching different topics. And so a little bit about me, I’m Joshuah Whittinghill, and I have like I said, I’m not first generation. But I grew up in a house where talking about college or going to college didn’t really come up very often. But I had the benefits and the experience of having a family in your parents who did graduate from college. But then the idea of college for me wasn’t really there. And so then when I went off to school, I really didn’t have set guidelines or organized plan of what to do for college. It was really a turbulent experience for me in that I was so bad at being a college student, I spent the first four years on academic probation. So my GPA was below a 2.0. At one point, I tell people, I got a letter, this is before email. So I got a letter came in the mail. And I always say it was sort of this Congratulations, you’ve qualified for disqualification. And so but I was doing that poorly at a community college. And then I moved to Chico at that point, and finally bumped my GPA up high enough to be accepted to CSU Chico, I think if it was happening now, I don’t know that I would even be eligible or be able to get into a university, having a 2.1 or 2.0, as a transfer student can be a very difficult process nowadays, compared to back when I did in the mid 90s, early 90s, excuse me. And so once I finally got into campus, of course, the next my first year at Chico State, of course, I was immediately on academic probation, because nothing changed, I didn’t really do anything different. And then thankfully, I did meet a professor who was very supportive, and helped me to be successful in that course. And then it kept me from being disqualified. And then at that moment, I learned a lot and made some life changes, some extreme choices, and really dove into my education and spent more time than ever before, in moving forward that next three or four years to be able to complete a degree and graduate. And so then I really became this, this lifelong learner, this lifelong students. And, and I say lifelong, because I’m always learning always trying to improve and understand more about education. But at that time as I graduated, and my first degree was in music, and then I was looking at going into graduate school. And it wasn’t really working out because my GPA wasn’t the greatest, my experience was the greatest.
joshuah whittinghill 07:11
So, I was able to, at that point, be hired on campus in the role that I currently have as an academic advisor with the Educational Opportunity Program. And then I also over the years, became the Assessment Coordinator with EOP. And also, about 15 years ago, was hired as a lecturer in the department of Multicultural and Gender Studies. And so in that experience, I was able to then finally get into graduate school. And so I did earn my first Master’s in English, and then learned a lot more about education at that point and higher ed, and then working with first generation students, that’s what the Education Opportunity Program works with is working with first generation students exclusively. And so that was my connection that’s been about 20 years, almost coming up in November of 2020, will be 20 years working with first generation students. And so I’ve learned a tremendous amount over the years. And then at some point, while I was in there, I became a father. And then I thought, hmm, my kids are getting older, they’re gonna start going to school, maybe I should also become better acquainted and understand what’s happening for them and education, and be able to be better at home, but also improve my ability as an educator. And so I was been able to earn a Master’s here at Chico State as well, and education. And then as I was finishing it up, a close friend said, Hey, Josh, why are you not getting your doctorate in education, you’re the kind of student that needs to be in a doctor program. And so I pursued that that was like that was in a mid December, about four years ago. And the application was due by mid January. So, I did all I need to do and get prepped and into the application process was admitted. And during this whole stay at home experience we’re having began for us at Chico State, the weekend of spring break essentially is when ours started in March. And about a month later, my diploma came in the mail and my dissertation was officially published by then earned my doctorate in Educational Leadership. So that’s a little bit about me and my experience with education and connection to this podcast and why I wanted to pursue something with first generation students as the focus and the core of what we will be doing for this podcast. Now, let’s hear from Teresa a little bit more about her connection and experience and her wonderful willingness to join me in this journey.
Teresa Hernandez 10:00
Awesome, thanks, Josh, it’s actually really nice to to get to know, my co-host Josh a bit more as well. And his more of his background experience. So, um, this is also a learning experience for me. Um from when I had to think about what experiences or what things to talk about, I feel like I kind of narrowed it down as much as I could to, like three major turning points in my life in a sense. And of course, there were a, there’s a bunch of others, which I’m sure will pop up here and there. But so one of the first ones would be, why I got involved and why being helping students, especially first generation students is super important to me, because I’m a first generation student as well.
Teresa Hernandez 10:44
And so I am the, my parents did not earn their high school GED, therefore, so I’m, it’s me, and I’m the youngest of three, I have two older brothers, the middle brother, he’s six years older than I, he did go to UC Santa Cruz. So, we’re kind of the first generation in our family to go. But even then having an older brother because you were six years apart, he was kind of just finishing up as I would just go into so he was graduating high school, and then the next year, I would go, it would be my freshman year in high school. So, I felt like, even though I did have him, he would have answered and supported me if I had any questions. He was kind of also on his own trying to navigate. I just graduated college, how do I even begin to apply for a job? What do I look for? What do I do. So, as he was experiencing new things, I was experiencing new things, we’re just doing it at two different times. Um so one of the first moments that was kind of like my aha moment, and knowing that, so for me, and my family, academics has always really stressed upon, it’s one of the most important things really our priority, you’ll hear it often where our parents, our family members will mention to us and my cousins, you know, I work so hard. So you don’t have to say you can go to school. So, you don’t have to make the sacrifice of choosing one or the other, we work so you can learn. And that’s a huge thing for us. And so that’s what I always grew up with. And one of the moments where I really felt like I was kind of like letting them down and letting myself down as to not pursuing higher, not pur, not not pursuing higher education, but not taking a guess like my academic seriously, was in eighth grade, when I was actually failing my geometry class. Math has always been the most like incredibly difficult thing for me to comprehend. And it honestly still is, I’m more of like a English history, strongest skills in that but math not so much. And so when that happened, and my mom got roped in and everything, they’re telling them her whole parent teacher conference, and actually that was like, the one moment where I was like, how it was just so devastating. Like, looking back, it doesn’t seem like a huge deal. But at that moment of such a devastating thing, feeling like, I’m a failure in that aspect. And the one thing that was like, you know, reach out for help, you know, reach out for help, but I just felt I didn’t feel comfortable to reach out for help. I’m also we were kind of raised to have this ingrained idea of, and there’s always an answer out there. So, you have to do the work to go look for it not so much like make sure utilize resources, like ask questions, that wasn’t really our thing. Um so so that was that was a hard idea to grasp. And to learn that later on, that’s going to be one of the keys to success, especially in school is to lean on others and look for that support. And so that really came in handy when I was applying to colleges when I was graduating high school. And it was really nerve racking because where I went to high school, I had a great experience and I loved it. But I felt like there was only one career counselor. So, she was really spread thin with helping all the seniors apply and things like that. And so I didn’t really know what I was doing. And I applied to a bunch of different colleges I really didn’t take the time or was even thinking about for the breakdown of my SAT scores and my grades and like, will I be accepted into the schools I what’s my you know, my ratio of getting in here, and I’m getting in there, I kind of just applied everywhere, and see which one would stick. And so that part was one of the hardest things for me and I realized the discrepancy between the understanding of what it takes to apply to college because you also need to really utilize your parents or guardians for their information for FAFSA, for scholarships, like for all of these technical things I didn’t really dabble too much in until I started applying to colleges. And I always remember my mentors that I had in high school, two of them specifically who really helped me along the way and even one who I had since elementary school because she was actually the one in elementary when I was in ESL who taught me how to speak English. And she just kind of stuck with me until I graduated high school and just made sure I knew what I was doing and I was getting everything done. Um and once I thought the hardest part would be getting into college. But I came to realize the realization that being in college as a first-generation student was probably the most difficult part of it all. Um not really knowing or being actually too afraid, or having a stigma of asking for help is huge. The stereotype of, if you ask for help, you’re gonna look weak, or you’re gonna look dumb, and you shouldn’t do that, that was a really hard thing to break down. And it’s super frustrating now that I think back on it back back on it, and just how that in certain context, I don’t think it applies in any context. But I feel like we would take it into our educational trajectory, and it would really just kind of inhibit us from asking questions from actually getting helping we needed. And then also, not being aware of support programs for first generation students in college really affected me because I was not a part of the EOP, I was not a part of Trio or anything, any of the other programs that are gear to first gen because I didn’t know about them. So I just applied to college, I just was doing my thing going to classes, and they thought that was it for me. Um, and so I felt a lot of stress when it came to having to communicate how my schedule was like, what my classes were, how much harder it is in high school, like the different responsibility as I had to carry how I needed to find a job and do in balance both of them and it was and how expensive it was and making sure and that I had enough money for my living expenses, because I went to San Francisco and that is not the cheapest place to go to school, or to live even though it was it was super hard. And so I was kind of just being hit by a bunch of different obstacles that I call like, quote, unquote, adult life where you get a little taste of, you know, having to put yourself through and do things on your own stuff like that.
Teresa Hernandez 16:44
But one of the biggest wake up calls and why I feel so passionate about working with this specific population of students and why I want to get involved was literally my ethnic studies courses as an undergrad, I majored in Latino Studies. And then I did a master’s program in Education, concentration, Equity and Social Justice. And so I knew that they were things that were in this higher ed to some that were hard for first gen students to, as well as other students, specifically talking about first gen students to navigate. But I never knew until I actually went through those courses that really gave you the nitty gritty truth about higher ed, that I realized there’s actual, on purpose systemic barriers put into place to keep people from pursuing and be successful finishing higher education. And to me, that was like this really mind blowing moment of where I just sat back. And I was like, oh, my god, so you’re telling me that everything is happening on purpose, because people didn’t want me to be here. People didn’t want me to be successful. They don’t want me to graduate. Like they want to keep me down like, and then it’s everywhere, like you once you I started learning about a reading these policies and how they’re written and how this this is funneled to geared towards a certain audience and target of students and how this you know, so many things like the school to prison pipeline, I could go on forever. But that was really the one moment where I was like, this is insane. Like, I need to do as much as I can play as even a small as big as a part to do what I can to help the students through and let them know like, this is what you’re going against. Like, don’t back down. But this is it’s not you. It’s literally the system. And that was the biggest the biggest aha moment for me.
joshuah whittinghill 18:27
Yeah, that’s a seems like a very common experience. Nothing I’ve learned throughout my years of working with first generation students, but more, I think, important at times is that I’ve been able to work with a lot of parents and get to meet a lot of parents and hear more because the idea of identity is one thing that have a label. But that doesn’t in and of itself. mean what’s really happening. As you mentioned, your last aha moment there. It’s the experiences that come with different identities in different groups, or different communities that we identify with and are part of those experiences are so important and so powerful. And that’s some of the motivation behind this podcast is to help make sure we are providing voice and sharing these stories. And though Yes, all of our guests are individual people. There will be times where they represent other parts of our community as well. And people having similar experiences are part of that. And we’re talking about experiences. And we’ve introduced first generation and so it might be a good idea to share some definitions that are being used in higher education. And because quite often first-generation students are categorized simply as those who are the first in their family to attend college. And Teresa, you mentioned the systemic inequalities around higher education. That much of the system hasn’t changed since the mid 1600s. And one of the other definitions then is been provided by the federal government and the US Department of Education when it developed Trio programs, which include Educational Opportunity Centers, Ronald E. McNair postbaccalaureate achievement, Student Support Services, Talent Search training program for federal TRIO program staff, Upward Bound, Upward Bound math, science, and Veterans Upward Bound. And that definition is that first generation students are those whose parents have no education beyond high school, or may have some college post-secondary certificate or associate’s degrees, but no bachelor degrees. And then more recently, some institutions are choosing to include students as first generation, even if their parents have completed a four year degree at an institution outside the United States.
Teresa Hernandez 20:53
Thank you for that after going over some of the context in terms of first generation, and going over some of the definitions, what I want to go into a little bit more is talk about what’s happening with students regarding their rules of graduation retention and enrollment. So, to do that, we’re going to go ahead and take a look at some of the common numbers for first generation students. So first, we’re going to start by talking about first generation students in higher education. And this is going to be going over national data. So nationally, 16% of first-generation students are enrolling and four year institutions. 33% are enrolling in a mix of four and two year institutions, accounting and transfer students, and specifically at Chico State for the years of 2019 and 2020. At 50%, who are enrolled at Chico State University were considered first generation students. So, putting that into perspective, for the CSU system, it is one of the largest public education systems in the United States. And overall, for the entire CSU system. Again, the population of students enrolled is 481,929 estimated total students. So of that large number 31% of those students, our students who identified with that have parents or guardians that did not attend college, 23% of those students identified with parents or guardians who attended some type of college, bringing us to about 54% of students who are first generation and the overall CSU system. So, narrowing it back down to Chico State. In the year of 2016 to 2017 50% of our overall students enrolled at Chico State are first generation in 2017 2018 51% of those students were also first generation in 2018 2019 49% of our student population were first gen. Again, in 2019 2020, it was 50% of our students were first generation. And in 2020, and 2021, we have about 51% of students who are considered first generation. And each one of those years we did have our numbers varied in enrollment. Um so to kind of give you a rough idea, and we’ll also have further resources on our website, but we had about an enrollment of around 17,200 300 around there for the earlier years. And for 2020 and 2021. We have about 16,700 estimated students attending Chico State and currently enrolled.
joshuah whittinghill 23:31
These numbers are impactful too Teresa. It looks like even at Chico State for the past six years, we were over 17,000 every year and this is the first year since 2013-14, that we have fallen right below 17,000. But they’re also meaningful these numbers in that first-generation students were more than seven times likely to earn bachelor’s degrees if they started their career at a four year institution. So that that says a lot about the importance and the access and where a student can begin their higher education. So, talking about that, what does what does retention then look like if we’re moving from enrollment, the next phase of an experience in higher education for numbers anyway?
Teresa Hernandez 24:16
Yeah, of course. So, looking at the retention of our students, especially in particular, considering the stop and dropout rates of our students. So which really essentially just means students who just stop overall attending their courses and go into college or drop out, kind of interchangeably use the same terms. So, by the end of three years, 14% of non-first-generation students would stop or drop out of college, whereas 33% of first gen students would stop or drop out. So, after six years out of campus, 43% of first generation students had left college without earning their degree. And among those who left 60% of them did so after the first year.
joshuah whittinghill 25:00
Wow, that’s a big, big difference we see there. And then we also see it in the importance of where student begins and how they move through. So in moving forward, or retention and how a student stays engaged, we are seeing based on some of the data in increase around campuses in higher education as far as outreach, programming and advising, specifically designed, or first generation students, because we know from the data and research that first generation students are also less likely to be engaged in the academic and social experiences that foster and nurture success in college. Some of those things being studying in groups, interacting with faculty, and other students participating in the extracurricular activities. And then also using support services. We know working inside of EOP, whether it’s remotely or in person, even having about 1100 students enrolled in the EOP at Chico State for the last four or five years, that’s about our average number, even then, trying to get students who are already part of a program to even come ask for help. Even that can be difficult, and we don’t, we don’t see all of our students. And so that’s, that’s definitely evident in our office on our campus and what we hear from colleagues around from other campuses as well, just getting students in. And even in a meeting I had, in the last couple of days or so a student was sharing that one of the major obstacles that she sees with her classmates, is people being willing to ask for that help, even if they know it’s there. So now we know that enrollment and retention are important factors, but they’re obviously connected to graduation. So, Teresa, what do some of the graduation numbers look like for first generation students?
Teresa Hernandez 26:52
Yes, great question. So definitely enrollment and retention um helped to have positive graduation rates for students, which is why they’re so imperative to working with first generation students. So nationally, 42% of non first gen students are graduating in four years, whereas 27% of our first-generation students are graduating in four years. So there’s a pretty big discrepancy there. And regarding whether or not you’re a student who identifies as first generation, um and in a five year range, that graduation rate then increases to 60%. For Non first-generation students and 45% for first generation students, and for at a six year rate, where non first gen students are up to 64%. And first gen students are up to 50%. So definitely, what these numbers kind of give us a sense of is that our first generation students are graduating at what seems to be about a six year rate, as opposed to being able to get in and out of their college in four years compared to their counterparts, which in this case, we’re looking at non first generation student populations.
joshuah whittinghill 27:59
And these are strictly just numbers of people progressing through finding success and achievement academics. We don’t then as we mentioned before, we don’t get to see them, the actual experiences, right, these are just numbers. So, everyone likes stories, and how people are impacted. And it brings to mind for me, a student I was working with, I am also I’ve been able to be the faculty advisor for the golden key international Honor Society for a number of years now on our campus. And there was a student who came in, she was visibly emotionally anxiety ridden. And she had she sat down and I said, oh, how can I help you take a breath, relax, what can I do to support you here? And she said, I don’t know what I’m gonna do for my career, how am I going to find work, how am I even going to get work? I just, I got it. I got to be in this class. I don’t know what to do. And she was, you know, like I said, frustrated, and just not sure that she was going to be able to be successful when she graduated. And I just took a deep breath with her. I said, You know, I happened to be this advisor for this honor society group. And you got the invitation recently of joining if you wanted to, and are able to and she I said Where do you think you fall? on our campus? We roughly have about 17,000 students? Where do you think you are in that range? She said, Oh, I don’t know, top, maybe the top 3000 or so up in the top, I said, I said you’re close, except you’re not so close, because you’re like number 12 on our entire campus. She was number 12 out of 17,000 students. So it just kind of shows the anxiety, the stress of of not knowing, not having necessarily all the resources or the discussions or the experience in the family to be able to see that okay, a B doesn’t mean nothing’s gonna be good for you moving forward. A B was a B, but it was her first B in college. So it was really overwhelming to her. But these numbers, like I said, are just numbers. This is now her experience we see and so all of our students, and that’s why I have the name of our podcasts right one of many. Each student carries their own experiences. Their own concerns, their own successes, all of their own triumphs all of these things. So it is important to keep that in mind. And so we hope that this first episode provides you some insights to where Teresa and I are coming from. And also a better understanding of first generation student experiences and higher education, which we hope to expand on in future episodes. Speaking of which, Teresa, what are some of the topics on our calendar?
Teresa Hernandez 30:27
Yes, I’m excited to share that some of the topics that we will be discussing and you’ll be tuning into our gonna be assimilation, sense of belonging. So having a conversation around that, and for all of these, we will have guests attending our episodes. So not only will you just hear it from my perspective, or Josh’s perspective, um you’ll definitely get a broad spectrum of voices in this podcast that we’ll be able to tell you or you’ll listen to their stories in terms of being first gen or working with first generation students communities. We’ll also have, I’ll be talking about stereotype threat imposter syndrome, what that means, what it feels like some experiences around that, you will also have the amazing chance to meet our musician, and get to know a little bit more about Jahny Wallz or Ivan Paredes will also have a panel on the experience of distance distance learning. So we are living through a global pandemic for the first time in our generation. So getting to the nitty gritty of what that’s like and how it’s been to acclimate to that change. We’ll also be talking about civic engagement, voting and rural student experiences, what that actually means different definitions, and what that looks like on our campus or communities. And we’ll also be talking about music language. So music overall the language of music and the different definitions that could have for different people.
joshuah whittinghill 31:45
Excellent. And, and I want to add our guests we’re going to have on our goal is to always be trying to get one guest who’s a current student for generations, so we can have a current experience from a student or two, if possible, I think one episode, we might even have three students. And then the other guests, we’re going to always try and work on getting an alum whose first generation so they may work in higher ed, they may not work in higher ed, we’re just talking to different alum so that will be our goal. And we’ll do as much as we can for those types of guests so we can have the different perspectives. If it doesn’t work out to always get first generation then our then our guests will always be someone then who is working very intentionally and dedicated to a lot of work with first generation students. So but before we go, we wouldn’t be doing a good job if we didn’t thank a few people. First, we want to thank Isabella McMurray for creating our amazing logo. Check it out on our website there if you see it on your phone for our logo there. That’s, that’s in in large part from Isabella McMurray. And she designed it with the thought of first generation students being this person in their family who is carrying this light and raising up themselves and people around them. So if you see it on the logo, it’s a wonderful addition to our podcast. Next, Teresa just mentioned, we want to thank Jahny Wallz or Ivan Paredes, for our intro music. You’ll hear that every episode. We also want to thank Michael Hayes, instructor at Chico State and Butte for web design, who is helping us create our website. And then also we want to thank EOP for supporting us. That’s EOP at Chico State specifically for supporting us in this so far. Maybe other EOP will support us along the way. But that’s our goal. So yeah, thank you for listening, Teresa.
Teresa Hernandez 33:44
Yeah, thank you again for listening in to first generation one of many. Please be sure to take care of yourselves and others as you can