First-generation Journeys: Confronting, Challenging, & Crossing Academic Borderlands

with T. Mark Montoya

About This Course

First-generation students are constantly crossing academic borderlands: from high school to college; from the hallway to the classroom; from being a student to graduate/professional, etc.  While applying the ethnic studies lens, Dr. Montoya discusses how he considers intersectional identities to best support all dimensions of students, particularly first-generation students.  Faculty and staff will also learn about Northern Arizona University’s (NAU) Professional Development Learning Community.

Even though first-generation students make up a third of all college students (Cataldi, Bennett, & Chen, 2018), many academics are still not versed in the relevant experiences of first-generation students, especially if they were themselves first-generation. The reason for this is that countless first-generation academics may not see their experiences as anything other than normal.  This contributes to missed opportunities to create meaningful connections in the classroom.  Acknowledging and sharing your first-generation identity and story with your students is incredibly important.

Institutions continue to admit more students-of-color and more students from low-income situations, contributing to an already greater number of first-generation students.  How first-generation students succeed once they get to the university or college is of utmost importance. This is especially true from a moral standpoint—if institutions raise students’ hopes by admitting them, then they should also provide accessible tools to support students’ success on campus. As we know, first-generation students are far less likely to graduate than their continuing-generation peers are. Thus, low retention rates mean lost revenues; not financially, but instead, morally.

As such, this Center Live Briefing will draw attention to the academic border-crossing experiences of first-generation students and the many intersections that inform numerous first-generation journeys.  Applying the ethnic studies lens, Dr. Montoya discusses how he considers intersectional identities to best support all dimensions of students, particularly first-generation students.  Additionally, Dr. Montoya will share the innovative Professional Development Learning Community of faculty and staff at NAU.  This Learning Community has evolved over time from a book club, hands-on trainers and facilitators; certifying colleagues as first-generation allies, advocates and activists, creating and implementing an online class for faculty and staff, and establishing and hosting a national symposium for guiding first-generation student success.

Learning Outcomes

By attending this session, participants will:

  • understand approaches to implement and/or continue first-generation advocacy and engagement on college campuses,
  • examine first-generation advocacy and engagement amid hierarchies of power in academia, and
  • investigate the social and political realities of first-generation experiences through a borderlands perspective.


This session is $99 for NASPA members, $149 for non-members. Pricing will be accurately reflected in your cart.

Accessing the Presentation

Once you complete your registration, you will be able to access the course by clicking on the "Login" button at the top of this page (or any page on

  • You will be asked to login with your NASPA user name and password. Once you have done so, you will hit continue and be redirected to your dashboard in the Online Learning Community.

  • You will find the session listed under "Enrolled."

  • This session is recorded. By clicking into, "Contents," you will find the session recording, resources, and PowerPoint slides. You may view the materials as many times as you'd like, at whatever pace you would like.

  • If you have any difficulty accessing the materials, please contact Jace Kirschner (

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