Vincennes University to celebrate its first-generation college students

Vincennes University to celebrate its first-generation college students

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November 06, 2019

November 6, 2019 / Vincennes University to celebrate its first-generation college students

VINCENNES, Ind. – Vincennes University will celebrate its first-generation students Nov. 8 on National First-Generation College Celebration Day.

VU’s Collaborative Opportunities for Postsecondary Education (COPE) Student Support Services will honor the success of first-generation college students, faculty, and staff with the First-Generation Mentoring Luncheon at 11 a.m. in Beckes Student Union.

“Being a first-generation college student is something to be proud of,” VU student Jade Zorn said. “It’s kind of hard to break away from going straight to work or going into the military or other things straight out of high school. It’s hard for a kid to want to go to college, but nowadays you can’t get a job without a degree. Having a luncheon to celebrate the first-generation students, what they’re doing, and getting out of their comfort zone is an excellent idea.”

COPE Student Support Services is one of many resources available to VU students to help them navigate college. The program lends support from orientation to graduation day. It provides education, support, and resources to students with disabilities or who are the first in their family to attend college as well as students who meet income guidelines. Students take part in a six-week class their first semester that helps them learn to navigate the challenges of college life.

“They’re a mom away from home, and they’re there to make sure incoming students graduate and that their college experience is as good as possible,” VU student Austin Hoosier said.

Hoosier, a student in the Advanced Manufacturing Technician (AMT) program from Spencer, Indiana, is on track to earn an associate degree in Advanced Manufacturing Automation Technology and has plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

“I went on a college transfer trip to the University of Evansville,” Hoosier said. “We’ve also had a business etiquette dinner with mock interviews. COPE really helps students get the experience that will lessen their fears whenever they’re trying to go get a job. We have game nights every week. I go to yoga every week at COPE, and that helps me have a healthier lifestyle and be happier with myself. They also have a lot of fun experiences that help us feel not so far away from home.”

Neither of Zorn’s parents attended college and she says COPE Student Support Services helped her “get the hang of it”.

She earned an associate degree from VU in Conservation Law Enforcement earlier this year. She is now enrolled in VU’s Homeland Security and Public Safety bachelor’s degree program and is also working toward a psychology associate degree.

“They will do everything in their power to help you with your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) year after year and help you figure out your tax stuff,” said Zorn, who is from Portland, Indiana. “They have tutors that will help you at the drop of a hat. If a tutor isn’t here, they’ll reach out to other faculty or they’ll get a study group going. If you have personal problems, they’ll sit down and talk to you about it if you don’t have anybody else. I’m four hours away from home, so it’s not like I can go home and talk to my mom. If you have questions about anything, they’re able to help.”

VU President Chuck Johnson; college deans, Joan Puckett (Humanities), Cynthia Ragle (Social Science, Performing Arts and Communication), Michelle Cummins (Health Science and Human Performance); COPE SSS Director Candace Joles; and VU Director of Financial Aid Stan Werne are among the first-generation graduates who will share their experiences during the mentoring luncheon.

“They’re going to talk about what it was like, what barriers they overcame and what grit or resiliency they had to succeed. We want students to see you can be successful, and it’s nice to have a role model who is successful,” Joles said.

VU has identified common challenges first-generation students face - such as being away from home; learning to navigate the campus; understanding the costs of tuition, meal plans, and books; and having a roommate - and provides the tools and resources to smooth their transition.

“Our whole goal is to help students graduate,” Joles said. “We have a low ratio of faculty to students. Our tutoring system and our labs on campus are phenomenal. Our faculty and staff are very good at assisting students with finding supports.”

VINCENNES UNIVERSITY - Indiana’s First College

VU is state-supported with campuses in Vincennes and Jasper, the Aviation Technology Center and American Sign Language program in Indianapolis, Early College Career and Technical Education Centers, and additional sites such as the Gene Haas Training and Education Center in Lebanon, the Logistics Training and Education Center in Plainfield, and the Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics in Fort Branch. A leader in developing Early Colleges statewide, VU also offers instruction at military sites throughout the nation.

In addition to offering a wide range of associate degree and certificate programs, VU also offers bachelor’s degree programs in technology, homeland security, nursing, secondary education programs in mathematics and science, and special education/elementary education.

VU enrolls students from throughout Indiana, 36 other states, and 21 other countries. Tuition and fees are the lowest among Indiana campuses with residence halls. VU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Founded in 1801, VU is Indiana’s first college and is the only college in the nation founded by an individual who would later become President of the United States. William Henry Harrison, the ninth U.S. President, founded VU while serving as governor of the Indiana Territory. More information is available at


Vincennes University Newsroom

MARCIA MARTINEZ, University Life Reporter & Sports Information Director
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VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of University Relations,