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Professor Selected for Project on First Generation College Student Success

Strategic Communication Professor Selected for Project on
First Generation College Student Success

The faculty and staff of the 2011 Department of Communication StudiesThe Interactivity Foundation (www.interactivityfoundation.org) is proud to announce that Morgan State’s Dr. Laura Dorsey-Elson will be joining us as a panelist in our First Generation Students: Possibilities for Success project.  Given how extensively Morgan State works to enroll, mentor, and graduate first generation students through university studies, we are very excited to have a representative from the MSU community on this panel.

Many other foundations and non-profits are working to get more underrepresented students into and through college.  The Lumina Foundation has articulated an ambitious goal:  challenging our nation to commit to enrolling and graduating 60% of U.S. citizens from a high-quality post-secondary degree program by the year 2025.  As those who work with first generation students know, there are many challenges that our nation and, especially, our post-secondary school systems will face in meeting that goal.  Two of the largest are: (1) generating demand for higher education among segments of the population that do not have backgrounds in higher education and (2) developing alternative and innovative approaches to meet that new demand.

For the many parents in this country who do not themselves have a college degree, the idea of sending a child off to school is daunting:  college is expensive but, even more than that, it can create physical and social distances that can intimidate many working-class families.  Still, as many as 85% of parents do want their children to attend college, and finding the right school is essential to a student’s success.  Many first-generation students begin their studies at a community college and can find themselves behind in meeting the expected curriculum track for their anticipated major once they transfer to a four-year college.  This may cause the student either to give up on pursuing their chosen major or to spend one to two more years in college than they had planned to spend.  High school counselors often lack the resources to adequately guide first-generation students towards more competitive institutions, as helping these students gain entry into and fund a college education can be a complicated endeavor.  And, once a first generation student arrives at college, he or she may feel as if s/he has arrived in the Promised Land—but without a map.

The Interactivity Foundation (IF) is committed to developing policy possibilities that address a range of social concerns by creating opportunities for experts and lay citizens to come together to develop policy approaches that could address a particular social issue. We emphasize civility in all of our discussions by inviting participants to share a meal during their conversation, as we firmly believe that deliberative discussions which incorporate and genuinely consider a range of views are essential to the health of our democracy.  Our projects work groups elucidating a wide range of concerns about a particular social problem and then try to imagine a contrasting array of approaches by which to address those concerns, while considering the potential impact of enacting those approaches. Project groups meet monthly over the course of about a year.  The resulting report is then discussed by other citizens via small, public discussion groups that meet over the course of three weeks to talk about a report’s possibilities.  We look forward to including the Morgan State community in the eventual discussion of the First Generation Students report.

At any given time, there are numerous opportunities in the Baltimore-DC area to (a) participate in one of IF’s public discussions exploring any range of topics, to (b) participate as a panelist on one of our developmental projects, and/or to (c) participate in a training workshop that helps teachers learn how to guide their students to facilitate their own exploratory learning discussions in the classroom—or even to teach their students to facilitate exploratory discussions in the broader community.  Please contact Ms. Nneka Edwards at nedwards@interactivityfoundation.org for more information about any of these opportunities

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