First-Generation College Students, Identity, & Empowerment Labels

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Curtis Green-Eneix; Dr.Gail Shuck
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First-generation college students (FGCS) have been the primary focus of college retention research due to more FGCS entering universities, and FGCS’s low retention rates. Recent research has focused on quantitative studies of FGCS from comparing education and social backgrounds to non-FGCS, to outside constraints FGCS face while in college. These findings result in general understandings of FGCS dealing with additional hardship to moments of severe loneliness. This study explores (1) how FGCS—from Boise State University’s Student Success Program (SSP)—perceive their identity in a college community, (2) how they have or have not experienced identity conflicts while pursuing a degree, and (3) how FGCS talk about their experiences through a qualitative analysis of face-to-face interviews. I use Dr. Mark Orbe’s theoretical framework of multidimensional identity to how FGCSs think about these tensions, and how they avoid or use the FGCS label. Preliminary findings suggest the FGCS label, once brought to the attention of the FGCS through either social interaction or other means, empower SSP students to continue with their education during times of hardship and/or loneliness.