This is a topic that spans k-12 and higher ed. I know the importance of having instructors that reflect the students’ own identities has been discussed in both educational settings. However, the conversation, as I’ve heard it, usually centers around race. The University of California is making an effort to show first generation college students that their demographic is represented in the faculty.
The initiative began due to the experiences of a psychology professor at UC Santa Cruz. She had been a first generation student and had difficulty navigating the college environment. Her experience caused her to want to help other students that are facing the same obstacles she faced.
The initiative encourages instructors on campus to identify themselves as the first members of their families to graduate from a four-year institution by wearing t-shirts or buttons stating so. In the entire UC’s nine campus system, there are roughly 800 faculty participants expected to wear their First-Gen Faculty shirts and share their experiences during the first week of fall classes. The hope is that first generation students will seek out those professors as role models or mentors.
Hopefully, a followup article will be written next year and there will be some data on the impact of identifying with first generation students.