First in the Forest: The First Semester

This semester, our Wake Forest Scholars and Magnolia Scholars Office began the “First in the Forest” program for all first generation college students. Our program defines “first generation” as a student whose parents did not go to an American college or university.  First in Forest1Unlike the Magnolia Scholars Program, which only funds a limited number of scholarships for first generation college students, First in the Forest is a program designed to serve the needs of all first generation college students.

First generation students have a wide range of racial diversity, including Caucasian, African-American, Native American and Hispanic students as well as students of different eFirst in Forest3thnicities including Afghani, Ghanaian, Serbian, Vietnamese and Korean.  The students bring different religious perspectives to campus including Baptist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Eastern Orthodoxy, Muslim and Mormon.  Though most hail from North Carolina, our First in the Forest students also come from California, Virginia, Florida, Tennessee, Ohio, New York and Illinois.First in Forest2

The Magnolia Scholars program provides workshops, organizes events and develops programming so that students will not regret or miss opportunities upon graduation.  These programs have evolved over time, based on alumni feedback.  Since its inception, the Magnolia Scholars program has expanded, with its programming serving more than its 120 scholars.  Magnolia Scholars staff have started to organize several social and educational programs to help meet the needs of those students who are among the first in their families to go to college—hence the recognized need for a First in the Forest program.

First in the Forest began by inviting the incoming first generation college students to a pre-orientation program at which they were exposed to various resources around campus. Students met with representatives from the Learning Assistance Center, the Center for International Studies, and the Office of Personal and Career Development. Following this pre-orientation event for first generation college students, parents and families were invited to a meeting to educate and enlighten them regarding their child’s time at Wake Forest.

Other events included a student tailgate event, volunteer opportunities, panel discussions, research, professional development sessions, ‘grab-n-go brunch’ on Reading day, a ‘Welcome Banquet’ with faculty and staff who were also first generation college students. This is a great opportunity for the students to network and develop mentoring relationships with faculty and staff who have had similar college experiences.

Among the faculty and staff who joined the welcome banquet this semester were our Wake Forest Scholars Office staff, Director of the Magnolia Scholars Program Nate French, Amanda Tingle, Nancy Aguillón, along with Sociology professors, Ana Wahl and Steve Gunkel, Spanish professor, Irma Alarcon, Director of Outreach for the School of Law, Beth Hopkins, and Administrative Assistant to the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Planning, Jenna L. Radford.

Thanks to the faculty and staff who have participated in these programs and events for all first generation college students.  These students are making a difference on our Wake Forest campus and beyond.

Magnolia Scholars:

  • Total Students Enrolled: 120
  • Graduation Rate: 91.5%, the University’s average is 88%
  • Magnolia Scholars represent 23 states
  • Total Majors Represented: 29

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