Penn First Plus
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For Faculty and Staff

Promoting more holistic advising and teaching practices is core to making Penn a more inclusive place for all students – regardless of socioeconomic background. The following opportunities and resources aim to provide faculty and staff with a starting point from which to deepen their exploration of how to be more inclusive in their work.


Become a Penn First Plus Ambassador

P1P Ambassador Training was created to further enhance faculty and staff knowledge and skills on topics that have direct impact on first-generation and/or lower-income students’ college transition, academic success, and sense of belonging on campus. Specifically, this 4-hour program focuses on topics such as: commonalities in the first-generation undergraduate experience, inclusive mentorship and advising, class-based microaggressions, and developing a strengths-and-growth approach to advising and mentoring all students. Through this program, faculty/staff gain a better understanding on powerful practices that positively affect the first-generation and/or lower-income student experience.

Please contact Hatef Alavi, P1P’s Associate Director via email for information on future dates or to request a customized workshop.


Inclusive Course Design

The Center for Teaching and Learning provides some low-effort suggestions to adjust your syllabi and the introduction to your course to make the environment more welcoming to your students.

In addition to the CTL’s examples of how to detail your office hours, we also advise explaining on your syllabus or in class how office hours should be used, emphasizing their role as a space to help students understand difficult course material and assignments, their scholarly interests, and getting to know you – not just as a space to raise concerns about grading.

While many faculty do their best to keep cost of course-related materials at a minimum, for some of our students, every additional dollar is helpful in stretching their financial aid budget.

  • Always accept a desk copy of a required text and have it available for students in your department. When using a book that requires an e-code, you may be able to request additional donated codes from the publisher to give to students.
  • Ensure that the library is able to place your materials on reserve. They are also able to scan and make available portions of books via Canvas.
  • List all options for purchasing the text on your syllabus (from the bookstore to Amazon and beyond).
  • Where the above fail, refer a student to Student Registration and Financial Services, who can help them evaluate their budget for course materials.
  • If all of the above steps have been taken by you, and/or the student, the FGLI Lending Library may have copies available.

These small changes have big impact – especially when you do not point out that you are taking them for FGLI students. With the cultural taboos associated with being situated lower on the socioeconomic ladder, some students are uncomfortable with


Advising Resources

From the perspective of Penn First Plus, academic advising is most effective when it is holistic: accounting for academic strengths, opportunities to deepen knowledge/skills, and takes into account co-curricular, professional, and personal goals. Therefore, taking the time to get to know your students on all of these levels is essential.

Concurrently, we know that students are balancing competing perspectives on what they should do to achieve their goals – or even in articulating what those goals may be in the first place (see Kegan, 1994; Piaget, 1950). An effective advisor should be able to guide a student through the process of identifying and articulating goals that align with their own values. Through the process of receiving good counsel from their advisor, a student should:

  • Feel empowered students to recognize multiple perspectives
  • Balance other perspectives with their own expertise
  • Develop a system of making meaningful choices that works for them (Baxer-Magolda, 2004, 2009).

While the term may instill feelings of discomfort, intrusive advising involves getting to know what motivates your student on an academic, professional, and personal level, and leveraging that motivation to incentivize action. Regularly scheduled interactions with students help to build the sort of relationship that enables the development of this dynamic. Some strategies include:

  • Asking questions that explore what they are experiencing inside and outside of the classroom at Penn both intellectually and emotionally
  • Clearly articulated expectations for frequency of communication and in-person interaction
  • Regular communications from you as their advisor highlighting upcoming deadlines, procedures, and/or programming of value
  • Programming and informal opportunities for engagement such as drop-in hours
  • Making a direct, personal referral to a resource when we recognize we have reached the limit of our ability to help

Making an Effective Referral

Given the number of resources available at Penn, determining where the next best stop for a student should be can be a challenge for even the most seasoned staff member. Multiple offices could make sense as referral points, and its very possible that the student’s needs requires multiple touch points across Penn. However, before a referral is made:

  • Contact a colleague in a partner office whom appears to be the logical next stop for the student to review the situation and determine if they are indeed the next location the student needs to visit.
  • Repeat this process if additional touch points with other partner offices are uncovered, and map out the process for the student in an email.
  • Refer the student to their first stopping point by way of referral to the specific colleague who can assist, and offer to continue to connect the student to specific colleagues. Alternatively, you can copy all colleagues on the email in which you outline the process for the student.
  • Follow-up with partner colleagues to confirm the student has followed-through on appointments. Also reach out to the student every other day to evaluate progress.

While an effective referral takes effort and follow-up, if an error is made or a step is skipped, the consequences to the student could involve more time and effort on the part of the student to address. This method ensures that students who might be reticent to advocate on their own behalf receive the necessary support in completing often complex bureaucratic tasks.

Penn is the sheer number of resources available to students. As advisors, we have a responsibility for maintaining our own awareness of each resource and when it might be applicable to a given student’s goal or situation. Given the ever-evolving work of Penn to make our academic experience more accessible to modestly-resourced undergraduates, this one-page resource guide developed by P1P provides a succinct overview of the various pools of money available to address a need or ambition.