Southwestern’s new “Captains Academy” pilot mentoring program will launch mid-August, and was made possible through an ICUT Foundation grant received by Southwestern’s Office of Admission and Enrollment Services. The program will benefit more than 80 first-generation students in the entering class of 2020, which represents 20 percent of those matriculating this year. As that population has grown, specifically addressing first-generation needs has become a top initiative for Southwestern.

“Studies have shown that a very low percentage of first-generation students (whose parents weren’t college graduates) graduate from college in four years, compared to a high percentage of students whose parents (both) graduated from college,” says Southwestern Academic and Transition Advisor Louisa Sepeda Landry.

The Captains Academy program aims to help first-generation students succeed at Southwestern and overcome those statistics.

“Captains Academy mentors are committed to smoothing the seas for our first-generation students in their first year at Southwestern by building a relationship that features constant communication with these students,” says Landry. “Our mission is to support these students in their first year and provide a strong foundation towards completing their degree.”

In order to achieve that, a total of 26 faculty and staff have volunteered to serve as program mentors. Seven groups of ten students will meet once a month for their entire first year—each led by a faculty or staff member. The monthly meetings will take place in various settings, including Career Services, Academic Success and the library. Examples of mentor-led topics include skills for success in a college classroom, community engagement, preparing for finals, pros and cons of fraternities and sororities, completing FAFSA, registration round II, thinking about summer jobs, preparing for finals, and celebrating success.

“The goal is to familiarize the students with these resources in order to guarantee their success, increase the retention of our first-generation students, and provide students with the tools they need to successfully graduate from Southwestern,” says Dean of Admission and Enrollment Services Christine Bowman. “This opportunity is well timed as we seek to empower a new, more diverse population of students for success in college.”

The program’s mission is to educate and arm students with all available academic, social and financial resources. Regular emails and print mailings will also be sent to family members to engage them in the acculturation process their student is experiencing.