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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Lily Gouin
Lily Gouin
Assistant Sports Editor

Hi! My name is Lily Gouin I am in my third year here at NMU. I am from Appleton, WI majoring in communications and double minoring in multimedia journalism and public relations. In my free time, I like...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas Wiertella April 30, 2024

NMU improves first-gen experience

A new program on campus is aimed at improving the experiences of first generation students, as well as increasing graduation rates by encouraging student-to-student and student-to-faculty interactions.

First generation students are defined as students whose parents did not complete a bachelor’s degree. NMU’s student population is 35 percent first generation students. According to a 2006 Pell Institute study, the national graduation average for these students is only 25 percent.

Last year, Assistant Dean of Students Linda Blair researched and created focus groups for first generation students to identify key problems that could be fixed to better their experiences at NMU. This year, Blair launched the First Generation College Students Program, making NMU one of the only universities in Michigan to have such an offering. Blair hopes the program can improve graduation rates in these students.

“There’s got to be something we can do to keep those students here,” Blair said. “Not just for one more semester, but to truly have them be successful.”

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The program aims to break down barriers by raising awareness of issues first generation students face and showing them that they aren’t alone. Through meetings on topics such as time management, financial aid and internships, students will be put in contact with one another and with faculty and staff who were first generation when they attended school.

“I don’t want it to feel like just another meeting or obligation, but a place where people truly want to connect with each other,” Blair said.

Blair is raising awareness for first generation students by speaking with resident advisors and the Academic and Career Advising Center. She says she has received positive responses from administration, department heads and first generation faculty and staff who are interested in attending meetings and mentoring first generation students in the future.

“I think there are a lot of times where students are a little bit ashamed to be first generation,” Blair said. She hopes more awareness and places to discuss with other people going through the same thing will break the stigma around the topic.

A branch of the program that focuses on discussion is the First Wildcats organization, which is headed by Rachel McCaffrey, a senior criminal justice major, and Emily Stulz, a graduate student in higher education and student affairs. The organization is holding a series of REAL TALK meetings over the semester, targeting common first generation problems and how to fix them from a first generation perspective.

“We want this to be like a focus group on steroids,” McCaffrey said to the small number of upperclassmen who attended the first meeting on Sept. 10. She wants hands-on advice from upperclassmen to use during REAL TALK sessions with younger students. The goal is to have many different first generation perspectives. “There isn’t a cookie cutter picture of where we come from,” she said.

Jaque Barr, a junior social work major and resident advisor for Ice House in Payne Hall, wants to lend what he’s learned from his experiences to his residents and new students to make their time easier.

“I came in with the mindset, ‘Alright, I came by myself and I have to do everything by myself,’” Barr said. “People can always tell you other people are going through the same thing, but actually hearing their stories – I can relate.”

First Wildcats meets every other Thursday. Those interested in attending, a schedule of REAL TALK meetings and other resources for help can be found at

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