MSA plans a student support group

The group will help students with time management and stress reduction.

Raj Chaduvula

For students who are the first members of their families to attend college, navigating through postsecondary education can seem daunting.
To support first generation students at the University of Minnesota, the Minnesota Student Association is working to create a support group for those students. 
“It would be nice to have a group that first-generation students can access for support,” said Sa Kong, a first-year student and intern at MSA. 
Kong is leading efforts to create the group, which will affect students like Jerika Eppel, a first-generation, first-year student from Odessa, Minn. 
Eppel, a public and nonprofit management major, said she applied to the University to take advantage of the opportunities in a big city while staying close to home. 
“It meant a lot to my family. … It was a big accomplishment,” Eppel said. 
The transition from a small town to a large university proved to be smooth, she said, yet it had its difficulties.
“It feels overwhelming at times,” Eppel said. 
The support group will ensure this overwhelming feeling is kept at bay, Kong said. Through the group, students can ask questions not necessarily found with the administration, she said, such as how to manage time, stress and academics.
Kong said this support is important because first-generation students can’t always rely on their family to provide answers.
Eppel said the size of the University can sometimes make it difficult to find resources. Necessary information is dispersed among many departments and people, she said. 
“It would be nice to have a condensed approach,” Eppel said. 
For many first generation students, it’s also their family’s first experience with postsecondary education, and it’s important to keep everyone involved, said Rachelle Hernandez, associate vice provost at the Office of Admissions. 
“We not only try to reach out to the students but their parents and family as well to make sure everyone is in the process,” she said. 
The University has an administrative group called the U First Advisory Committee, Hernandez said, to address support for first generation students. 
“[The committee is] looking at aggregating all the services for students and [making] information accessible for first generation students,” Hernandez said. 
Right now, Kong said, the goal is for the support group to start meeting next fall. The group isn’t limited to first-generation students, and anyone who wants to help them transition to college could participate, she said. 
The group could help people understand what it is like to be a first-generation student, Eppel said, and bring a greater understanding and awareness to the challenges they face.
“It’s a place to have conversation, somewhere you can talk on a more personal level … and figure things out together,” 
Eppel said.