The Kessler Scholars Collaborative – a nationwide, cohort-based program designed to provide support to high-achieving, first-generation college students – is set to launch at Ohio State this fall, inviting up to 75 incoming first-generation students to join the program.
Provost Melissa Gilliam said in the Academic Affairs and Student Life Committee Board of Trustees meeting May 17, the university was awarded $1 million over five years to join the collaborative, which will serve as an advising resource with the first-generation academic honor society, Tri-Alpha, to provide selected cohort members resources and a supportive living-learning community to help successfully navigate college.
“The Kessler Scholars program at Ohio State provides a transformative opportunity to students who are the first in their families to attend a four-year institution,” Gilliam said. “Each scholar will receive $2,000 in experiential learning scholarships.”
Director of Academic Success Programs Kia McKinnie, said there are three learning outcomes of the collaborative, which include identifying and engaging with campus support and resources to develop academic, personal and social skill sets; effectively engaging with peers, faculty and staff to broaden individual perspectives; and contributing as a 21st-century global citizen.
“The overarching goal is to provide an opportunity for first-generation college students to develop the necessary leadership skills to successfully navigate their collegiate experience,” McKinnie said in an email. “Through participation in individualized success coaching, leadership development workshops, mentorship and service learning, students will be equipped to identify personal growth opportunities and develop strong connections with faculty, staff and peers that will support them on their journey of lifelong learning.”
The Kessler Scholars Implementation Committee, led by Vice Provost and Dean for Undergraduate Education Norman Jones, is currently organizing the program’s infrastructure, according to David Graham, assistant vice provost for student academic success.
Graham said the cohort of scholars, selected from approximately 2,000 incoming first-generation students, will be chosen based on reviews of their admissions applications and financial need.
The Kessler Scholars Implementation Committee, in collaboration with the Enrollment Services Office, has recently narrowed down the applicant pool to around 100, Graham said. The final selection of scholars will be primarily considered based on financial need, as 60 percent of the cohort must be eligible for Federal Pell Grants , which are awarded to students who display exceptional financial need and have not yet earned a bachelor’s, graduate or professional degree.
“There [are] 2,000 students, and what we noticed is that not all 2,000 students are getting support,” Graham said. “So we are trying to identify those students that maybe have not latched on to a different program — what we call ‘unaffiliated.’ We want to make sure that all students have an opportunity to be a part of some support program.”
Virtual workshops will be held throughout the year to bring together faculty members from all 16 institutions involved in the Kessler Scholars Collaborative for “shared learning, goal setting and community building,” McKinnie said. There will also be an annual convening at Cornell University on July 25 and 26, where McKinnie and Ramsey Piazza, program manager for Buckeyes First, will represent the university.
While the previous year’s convening served as an orientation, this summer it will be a place for institutions to discuss their progress and share their best practices and learning experiences, Graham said.
“My vision for the first year is that even though we are doing the cohort-based model, we are connecting the dots across all the other first[-generation] student support services,” Graham said. “We are really hopeful for the community at large to rally around first-gen students.”