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Week Six
Connecting Students with Institutional Support Resources

By the fourth week of class, you have learned a lot about your students, their strengths, and the challenges they are facing (if you haven’t done so, read the profile for this year’s incoming freshman class). Faculty can have a significant impact on students’ success by connecting them with support resources to help them. This is particularly true for first-generation students (so it is worth noting that 56% of NIU’s incoming class this year are first-generation college students), as faculty “play a critical role in first-generation students’ college success by imparting intellectual capital and institutional resources critical to navigating the higher education environment” (McCallen, L. S., & Johnson, H. L., 2020). This week we address the extensive NIU support services that are available and how you can help students connect with them.


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Understanding the Challenges Facing First-Generation College Students

First-generation college students may experience significant personal, cultural, educational, or financial challenges when pursuing their degrees. First-generation students may be unfamiliar with the everyday workings of higher education, so questions that may seem simple to you can be daunting to a new student without family members or role models who had experience in college.

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Faculty Play a Significant Role in First-Generation Students’ Success

In this study, McCallen & Johnson (2020) found that faculty are significant sources of aspirational, inspirational, emotional, and navigational capital that can impact first-generation students’ academic achievement. (Note: click Get Access, then Check Access, and enter your institutional email to receive a link to download the article)

male faculty member wearing concerned facial expression and meeting with male student in his office

Effective Growth Mindset Culture Messages

The language you use in the messages or emails you send impact whether students apply a growth or fixed mindset to their learning. Messages that promote a growth mindset are more likely to encourage students to take action or persist when faced with academic challenges.

A Non-Exhaustive List of NIU Resources

There are so many resources available to NIU students that it is challenging for any list to include all of them. In addition to those listed below, you can find more listed on the Students Success Tips and Tools page and in Blackboard on the Assist tab.

Personal Support

Cultural Support

Academic Support

Financial Support

  • The Financial Aid and Scholarship Office can explain options for funding college as well as key deadlines for submitting scholarship and financial aid materials.
  • Student Financial Advising Services financial advisors can educate and advise students and their family members on financial aid tuition and feed, and general financial literacy.
  • The Huskie Food Pantry can help students have access to a steady supply of healthy food so they can succeed in their classes and their lives. Students can use the pantry free of charge.

Recommended Strategies

Choose one of the following strategies to implement

Normalize Asking for Help

Share the Huskies Ask for Help video with your students to normalize that asking for help is a sign of strength and not failure. You can also point out the Assist tab in Blackboard and encourage students to make use of the resources.

Encourage Engagement with Cultural Resource Centers

NIU has many cultural resource centers which can be supportive of student development and learning. They provide spaces where students can express their cultural heritage, broaden their cultural knowledge and connect with others who share their interests. Send a communication to your students outlining how you value the cultural resource centers and how your students can get involved.

Connect with Your Subject Specialist Librarian

Invite your subject specialist librarian to one of your class sessions to walk your students through research strategies, a common skill gap for students. Subject Specialist librarians can also help you find and use free or low-cost course materials or you may want to place materials on print or electronic reserve to reduce the cost to students. Using affordable course materials can reduce the financial burden on students. Students who are feeling financial stress may be holding off on accessing important content and falling behind.

Seek Out Support

You may not feel comfortable recommending that a student contact one of the support resources. In that case, start by consulting with them yourself! Counseling and Consultation Services provides a guide for recognizing students with emotional and/or behavioral concerns, and they are happy to consult with you about how to address your concerns with the student (call them at 815-753-1206).

Selected Additional Resources

Students' lives are complex, so the support they need is equally complex. Here are a few more resources on connecting students with support resources.

  • How to Help First Generation Students Succeed – This 2017 report by the Chronicle of Higher Education examines strategies for helping first generation students adjust and excel.
  • No Food for Thought - This 2020 study by Martinez, Frongillo, Leung, & Ritchie found a direct relationship between food insecurity and student grade point average. Food insecurity also negatively affected mental health.
  • Student Success Tips and Tools – This NIU resource includes tips and practical strategies for student success along with links to several support centers that students may benefit from using.
  • Supporting Financially Stressed Students – This guide by the College Transition Collaborative provides recommendations for how you can help to mitigate some impacts of financial hardship within the classroom, in addition to connecting students with institutional resources.

Next Steps

Please review the resources and select at least one of the recommended strategies to implement. Make a note to yourself about the strategy you used and the impact that it had.

At this stage, we are going to start to fade the scaffolding, which means we are going to decrease the frequency of the newsletters. In two weeks, we will share resources on providing effective feedback. If you have any questions or concerns in the meantime, feel free to let us know at

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Contact Us

Center for Innovative
Teaching and Learning

Phone: 815-753-0595

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