Assume Nothing

A first-generation student once came to my office gasping for air after his first class. His professor talked about “office hours,” a term he had not heard before, and he was worried that he already had missed something. Those of us who have dedicated our careers to higher education speak a dialect that many underrepresented students don’t understand. In fact, at a college success forum recently, former First Lady Michelle Obama admitted that when she got to college, she didn’t know what a syllabus was. I’ve had students who had no idea what a registrar or bursar was. They were too afraid to ask for fear of looking dumb, so they just avoided going. If you really want to set students up for success, assume nothing about the social and cultural capital they bring with them. It’s our job to meet them where they are and teach.

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