Dr. Robert Longwell-Grice ’75 grew up in Horseheads, NY. Like five of his eight siblings, he graduated from Corning Community College, forming the first generation of their family to attend and graduate from an institution of higher education. His Corning experience would begin a career in education – and an educational journey – that spanned decades. The highlights of Rob’s journey included serving as dean at an American college in England and earning a doctorate in Educational and Counseling Psychology from the University of Louisville with research focused on first-generation college students.
Now retired from a 40-year career in student affairs, Rob joined forces with his wife, Dr. Hope Longwell-Grice, earlier this year to publish At the Intersection: Understanding and Supporting First-Generation Students a Stylus publication. We sat down with him last week to talk a bit about the genesis and the insights of this book, with readings by leading experts in the field, including the editors themselves.
The first part tackles the question, “Who is a First-Generation College Student?” One of the key findings in this section is that a clear majority — more than 60% of first-generation college students — start their post-secondary education at community colleges. Indeed, he added that when he was a student at CCC, nearly everyone he knew was a first-generation student, even though nobody really used that terminology at the time.
The second part, “The Intersections of Identity,” emerged from an appreciation that sensitivity to intersectionality is critical to providing students with the keys to college success. Colleges, particularly community colleges that will welcome so many first-generation students, need to help at all stages – preparing students for what is to come, supporting them along the journey, and especially by building a sense of belonging – since such students may experience tension moving between campus and off-campus cultures.
The last part, on “Programs and Practices,” shares findings about factors that influence degree completion. He shared key findings that living and working on campus are two factors that appear to drive completion rates for degree-seeking students.
Alumni measure success in many different ways, to be sure, but there can be no doubt that Dr. Robert Longwell-Grice has affected many student lives since starting his educational journey here on Spencer Hill in 1973. And influencing the lives of students in a positive way is perhaps the greatest measure of success.
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