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Kaeley, Lauren Pressley and I attended the second session in the series, Engaging and Supporting the Wake Forest Student: Pedagogical Approaches for Success. This one focused on first generation college and high needs students. It is of special interest to me because I was a first generation student myself, many years ago. This session followed the format of the first one, in that the situation was framed by facts and profiles of the current student body, followed by additional information on the group being studied, and then helpful pedagogical tips to address needs.

Tom Benza, Associate Director of Financial Aids, shared with us detailed facts about financial aid at Wake Forest. I wrote down only a few of the highlights. Total annual cost of undergraduate attendance at Wake Forest is $58,310. Wow. 40% of the student body gets financial aid; 61% of students coming from North Carolina get aid. $41,949 is the average package to students in North Carolina. A shocking $35,070 is the average debt from last year’s graduating class. Tom explained how need is determined from a family’s income. For instance, all students are expected to contribute $2400 toward their education from working. There is particular stress on middle income families ($100-150K), which are expected to provide $20,000-30,000 as a family contribution. ZSR was thanked publicly for hiring so many work study students, but still there are 70 students on the work study wait list at any given time. That is why it is so important for us to hire and retain work study students.

Nate French described the Magnolia Scholars Program, which he directs. There are 500 first generation students at Wake Forest (whom he affectionately calls “First in the Forest”). They are chosen after the students have enrolled, from a group that has been identified with high risk factors (less than $40,000 income, big family, weak high school, pressure from home). The program is deliberately designed to avoid a visible cohort, in order to avoid stigma. Over the last 4 years, Magnolia Scholars have been getting .1 to .2 higher GPA than the control group, are comfortable academically, do not have binge drinking problems, but are less interested in going abroad.

Then Catherine Ross got to the meat of the workshop by describing pedagogical techniques to help these first generation students succeed. As with the previous session, she pointed out how universal design principles are at work. What works for first generation students will also work for all students. She talked about motivation and meta-cognition, meaning, the more students engage, the better their chances for success. Catherine gave practical steps to help students, including giving early and ample feedback, using self-assessment, assigning a plan of work as a first assignment, helping students engage in self-correcting techniques, etc.

This proved to be another very helpful and practical session to understand the students that we encounter here at Wake Forest. The next session is Thursday, November 15 at 11:00 am. The focus is on International students, a constituency of particular interest to us at ZSR this year. Sign up at PDC if you are interested.