Season 2, Episode 5 - Fostering a Sense of Belonging for First Gen Students

Transcript | Duration: 23:23

​​​About the Episod​e

For many students, navigating the college experience is unfamiliar and may sometimes feel alienating. Many institutions don’t operate much differently than they did 400 years ago, despite the student body being dramatically more diverse than it was back then. College campuses are beginning to transform to support students with their diversity of backgrounds and experiences. Higher Ed Rewired asks Anthony A. Jack of Harvard Graduate School of Education, Sarah E. Whitley of the NASPA Center for First-generation Student Success, and Ji Yun Son of California State University, Los Angeles, “Why is a sense of belonging important to student success for first-generation students?”  

Featured on this episode:

Anthony Abraham Jack, Assistant Professor of Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education, Shutzer Assistant Professor, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and author of The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students.

Anthony Abraham Jack received his BA in Women’s and Gender Studies and Religion cum laude from Amherst College and an AM and PhD in Sociology from Harvard University. He is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and an assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He holds the Shutzer assistant professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.  Dr. Jack has held fellowships from the Ford Foundation and the National Science Foundation and was a National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellow. The National Center for Institutional Diversity at the University of Michigan named him an Emerging Diversity Scholar, and in 2020, Muhlenberg College awarded him an honorary doctorate for his work in transforming higher education.
National publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, and The Chronicle of Higher Education, have featured his research and writing as well as biographical profiles of his experiences as a first-generation college student. His first book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, was awarded the 2020 Mirra Komarovsky Book Award, the 2019 CEP Mildred Garcia Award for Exemplary Scholarship, and the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize. The book was also named a finalist for the 2019 C. Wright Mills Award and an NPR Best Book of 2019.

Ji Yun Son, Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology, California State University, Los Angeles

Ji Y. Son holds a PhD in Cognitive Science and Psychology from the Indiana University Bloomington. Her research focuses on how basic cognitive and perceptual processes foster rich and transferable learning. Dr. Son examines methods of applying these psychological insights at scale to issues like mathematics remediation and student success. She is the director of the Learning Lab at California State University, Los Angeles and co-author of "Introduction to Statistics: A Modeling Approach" (see coursekata.org). The central idea behind Dr. Son’s work is that learning changes the way we see the world. As a child of first generation immigrants, she benefited from faculty mentors and peers who provided guidance through a higher education system that her parents did not understand. Now she aims to use that experience along with data science and rigorous improvement methodology to expand the availability of those resources to her students. 

Ana Ramos, Graduate Student, CSULA Learning Lab, California State University, Los Angeles

As an undergraduate student in Psychology, Ana became interested in clinical, developmental, and cognitive psychology. She shared what inspired her towards furthering her academic aspirations and looking towards a psychology career; “because it amazes me how our brains control our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. As a research assistant I see the importance in conducting research in learning and education to help future generations succeed. I plan to expand my knowledge by furthering my education with graduate school and after earn my doctorate degree."

Sarah E. Whitley, Assistant Vice President, Center for First-generation​ Student Success, NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education 

Sarah holds a Ph.D. in higher education from the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development where her scholarly interests included issues of inequality, academic motivation and decision-making and the success of first generation and low-income students. Her dissertation examined the academic decision-making of low-income and first generation college students with an interest in humanities disciplines in a post-recession context. From 2007-2013, Sarah served as director of First-Year Experience and Family Programs at Longwood University where she was responsible for transition, first-year experience, student success, and community engagement initiatives. Sarah is the author of First-generation Student Success: A Landscape Analysis of Programs and Services at Four-year Institutions as well as other resources on first-generation student success and related topics.

A first-generation college graduate, Sarah also holds an M.Ed. in college student personnel administration from James Madison University, a bachelor’s degree in political science from Longwood College, and is a 2010 graduate of the Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) Bryn Mawr Summer Institute.

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