Supporting First-Generation Students

The First Generation Initiative (FGI) was established in 2010 to ensure academic success for first-generation college students, or those who are the first generation in their family to attend a postsecondary institution.

Young people who are the first generation in their family to attend college can shatter an intergenerational cycle of poverty because when they obtain a degree, they enter jobs comparable to—and earn salaries comparable to—other entry-level professionals. But many students in a first-generation situation never make it to college, and too many under-represented students are not graduating at the same rate as their classmates. This mission-inspired initiative goes beyond college access and focuses on college readiness and retention in order to help first-generation students successfully complete a college education.

Preparing Students for College and Supporting Them Once They Arrive

The program serves students at two possible stages in their education, high school and college. High school students from partner Lasallian and Catholic high schools have the opportunity to participate in Countdown to College, a four-year summer program that helps boost academic skills necessary for college readiness. First-generation students who enroll at Saint Mary's for undergraduate studies have access to academic, social, and cultural support. First-generation students need not participate in the Countdown to College program to be eligible for services.

Additional Support for First-Generation Students

The FGI Office provides academic support to first-generation students at Saint Mary's through additional academic advising, structured study halls, and more. High-need students may be eligible for additional financial support through our First Generation Scholars program. Social support is provided through regular social and cultural activities as well as workshops. 


First-generation students who need help maintaining a successful G.P.A. have access to additional academic support services during the academic year including tutoring, literacy classes, advising, evening study hours, peer mentoring, and more. University faculty and staff are trained to best serve the needs of first-generation students.


First Generation Scholars is a scholarship program established for high-need, high-potential, first-generation students from partner Lasallian and Catholic high schools. 


It is important for first-generation students to make connections with other students and create a support system to be successful at college.

Connect With Us

Jennifer Hanifl, Ed.D.

Assistant Director of First Generation Initiative and Learning Services

Student Success Center and First Generation Initiative

Griffin Hall, GR 70K

Campus Box: # 44

(507) 457-6607

Jennifer Hanifl Ed.D.