Fighting for Equity and Community in an Urban Research University

  • Mary Ho University of Southern California
  • George Sanchez University of Southern California
Keywords: First Generation College Students, Students of Color, Equity Lens, Institutional Support, Faculty of Color


The equity lens evaluates institutional barriers that prevent students of color from gaining access to resources for college success (Bensimon, 2005). The first-generation college students at the University of Southern California are 16% of the total student body and students of color comprise two-thirds of this population. Since 2008, how to support first generation college students of color in their academic achievement and college success once in college has expanded the discussion beyond access.  By evaluating institutional structures through the equity lens, the response has been to create intentional academic and social programs for first generation college students of color that bridge the academic and student services divide.  Through descriptions of actual programs and stories from students affected by these programs, this essay will discuss innovative approaches to serving first-generation students of color at predominantly white universities.

Author Biographies

Mary Ho, University of Southern California

Assistant Dean for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives

Dornsife College

Office for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives

George Sanchez, University of Southern California

Professor of American Studies & Ethnicity, and History

Department of American Studies & Ethnicity