Congratulations to Sarah Willen and her colleagues at Brown University on being awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to address the impact of COVID-19 on first-generation college students and their families in the U.S. as part of their impactful Pandemic Journaling Project.
The new study is led by Dr. Katherine A. Mason (Brown University) with Dr. Andrea Flores (Brown University), and Dr. Sarah Willen (UConn) as Co-Principal Investigators. The study abstract, which is posted on the NSF website, reads as follows:
The Impact of Covid-19 on the Educational and Career Outcomes of First-Generation College Students and their Families
The Covid-19 pandemic has greatly disrupted the education of first-generation college students—those whose parents did not complete a college degree. These students and their parents are often low-income, racial/ethnic minorities, and/or of an immigrant background. Compared to other families, they have fewer resources to absorb the impact of the educational and social crises stemming from the pandemic, but also have more at stake in completing a college degree. In families of first-generation college students, parents and children strive together for individual and collective success based on the belief that higher education will advance the family’s economic mobility, improve their social status, and help them fulfill their obligations to each other. This research examines how the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the educational and life goals of first-generation college student families and the actions taken in support of these goals. The project findings, to be shared in public-facing documents and web-based formats including a public archive, informs university supports and social services for vulnerable learners and families. This project is jointly funded by Cultural Anthropology and the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).
The project hypothesizes that the Covid-19 pandemic has led first-generation college students and their families to prioritize caretaking actions aimed at immediate practical needs over the longer- term goals of better lives enabled by education. This hypothesis will be investigated through three years of data collection and analysis. Sixty parent-student pairs will each participate in: 1) two years of monthly journaling on the Pandemic Journaling Project (PJP) platform, created by two of the PIs in May 2020; 2) two one-on-one interviews with researchers; and 3) two interviews conducted between parent and student. These varied methods will capture families’ shifting thinking, goals, and actions in relation to education and well-being. Understanding these perspectives and choices will advance theories of how families seek to create meaningful lives through both education and caregiving in the wake of crisis.