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First Gen Focus

New class helps students learn how to ‘do college’

Even though Grace Roopcharan’s parents haven’t earned a bachelor’s degree, Grace isn’t limiting her educational aspirations. She aims to become Dr. Roopcharan, with a PhD in psychology.  

“My parents push me to be the best version of myself,” said Grace, a first-generation Bridgewater State student and psychology major from Attleboro. “They want me to make a good life for myself and encouraged me to go to college.”  

While her family offers plenty of support, Grace, like many other first-generation students, came to BSU unsure exactly what to do: Should I go to professors’ office hours? Can academic tutoring and coaching really help me? Sorting all this out can be challenging for many newcomers to campus.

Fortunately, Grace’s advisor encouraged her to enroll in a new class for freshmen taught by Evie Dewar. Dewar developed the course to ease the transition from high school to college for students like Grace, who is among the nearly 50 percent of Bears who are first generation.  

Dewar brings in guest speakers and connects her class with student mentors from the orientation program. The class also completes a scavenger hunt to explore resources on campus.   

“Building community is my number one goal,” she said. “I’m giving them an enormous advantage in how to do college. … It’s giving them a backbone of resilience and grit, so they are able to do this.”  

Political science and English major Ehudy Silva appreciates learning about financial resources. He’s already received a scholarship as a result of a connection forged in this class.  

Ehudy also enjoys getting to know his peers through assignments like the scavenger hunt, which Dewar requires students to complete in pairs.  

“As a commuter, you go to class, leave class and go home,” the Stoughton resident said. “Having a class like this where we talk with people is important.”  

Classmates also explore their own interests and goals as part of the Life Design curriculum BSU is implementing.  

“This is not a class where I’m giving them the answers,” Dewar said. “I’m giving them a lot of questions to think about themselves.”  

Dewar, who also supervises student teachers, recognized the need for this class after hearing those upper-class students talk about things they wished they knew as freshmen. She developed the course with the assistance of students Elizabeth Rodericks, ’21, G’23, and Alex Crisman, ’21, G’23.  

“I really relied heavily on their input because they’re living it,” she said.  

Patrick Baptiste appreciated how Dewar welcomed many guest speakers who explained how offices serve students. As a result, he’s already visited the Academic Achievement Center and Financial Aid Office.  

“It’s provided me with every resource I need,” the computer science major said.  

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