Case Study: NSU: FIRST-GENERATION STRONG Northern State is proud to support the 35% of its students who are the first in their families to go to college. In fact, the university is home to many faculty and staff who were first-generation college students pursuing their own Dakota dream. They know well that college can be a confusing and scary place for the children of parents who didn’t go to college. These students — many of whom also rely on financial aid to attend college — are more likely to struggle academically and drop out if they lack encouragement and guidance. In summer 2021, NSU launched its “First-Generation Strong” project to celebrate the powerful victories of the university’s first-generation students and faculty, and to ensure that these students feel understood and supported as they navigate their college experience. NSU faculty and staff provide the kind of close contact and strong relationships that can make the difference for students unfamiliar with college. Northern’s faculty members spend an average of 7 hours a week advising and mentoring students, totaling almost 9,500 hours a semester. NSU welcomed first-generation students into its First-Generation Network with a special reception for first-generation faculty and staff as the academic year kicked off. No detail was left unattended — placards on the doors of first-generation faculty and staff invite these students to stop in and talk. And NSU brings this network together several times throughout the year to celebrate successes and cheer students on. College can change the trajectory of a life. NSU knows this and is committed to ensuring that its first-generation students can spread their wings and fly. “I am first generation and I appreciate knowing that some of my professors are too. They went on to get their doctorate and that is so inspiring to see. They take time to ask me what I want to do and how they can help me. They understand me.” Emma Pulfrey Northern State University Student 4