Working hard to achieve success is not uncommon for Harvard students. But for first-generation, lower-income (FGLI) undergraduate and graduate students, institutional challenges come with a different set of obstacles.
“Research shows that most first-generation, lower-income students possess the internal resources they need to support their success but often lack the organizational and navigational knowledge and faculty engagement to construct experiences of thriving on campus,” said Shandra Jones, a first-generation Ph.D. candidate concentrating in human development, learning, and teaching at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE) and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS).
More than 15 percent of Harvard College students are first in their families to pursue a college degree. At the 12 graduate and professional Schools, there are a growing number of FGLI students and increasing conversations about how to better support their inclusion and success, especially during a global pandemic. The Harvard University Next Gen Initiative, part of the Culture Lab Innovation Fund, is committed to helping all Harvard undergrads and grad students who are FGLI, international, undocumented, DACAmented, or from mixed-status households.
The term “next-gen” encompasses a range of underrepresented students and signals their leadership potential. The initiative addresses shared challenges, and helps all next-gen College and graduate students succeed.
But the task is not easy, said Amanda K. Sharick, who leads the next-gen project and is the senior program manager for Harvard’s Graduate Commons Program. As a Mexican American and the first in her family to earn any advanced degree, Sharick knows how important it was to have a clear pathway toward her degrees. The core challenge, she said, is identifying available and sustainable resources, and finding a way to ensure all first- and next-generation students have access to them.