1st Edition

First-Generation Student Experiences in Higher Education Counterstories

By Carl E. James, Leanne E. Taylor Copyright 2023
    188 Pages
    by Routledge

    188 Pages
    by Routledge

    In First-Generation Student Experiences in Higher Education: Counterstories, we meet eight students who attended university through an access program, and hear their stories of deciding to enter university, navigating and negotiating the institution, and bringing their university experiences with them into adult life. Their "counterstories"—drawn from application statements, weekly group meetings, diary entries, group conversations, interviews, and media reports—challenge the stereotypes commonly applied to marginalized students in higher education. Chapters offer insights into a range of salient themes and highlight the students’ strategies, challenges, successes, and trajectories, as well as their nuanced relationships with their networks, communities, families, and significant others. With this volume, James and Taylor present a valuable resource for educators, administrators, scholars, students and community agencies interested in extending understandings of first-generation university students.

    Preface: Understanding the Lives, Experiences, and Ambitions of First-Generation University Students;  1 Marginalized Youth in Postsecondary Institutional Contexts;  2 Kofi: "Education Will Get You to the Station": The Possibilities of Merit in University Education;  3 Tristana: "Education Is a Way to Fight Oppression": Giving Back to the Community;  4 Laura: "I Am Determined to Make Other Choices for My Life": Education as a Path to Upward Social Mobility;  5 Sam: "If I’m Portuguese, I Can’t Be Gay": Negotiating Identity in a University Space;  6 Jasmine: "I Am Determined to Break Away From my Antiquated Tradition": Education as Survival;  7 Amy: "I Don’t Need to Be Held Down by the Shackles of My Misery": Balancing Stigma, Pride, and Expectations;  8 Ewart: "I Really Wasn’t Ready": Expectations and Dilemmas in Navigating University;  9 Jafari: "I Felt Alone and Out of Place": The Experiences and Ambition of a "Non-Canadian";  Conclusion: Reimagining Postsecondary Education


    Carl E. James is a Professor of Education, Youth & Equity Studies, and holds the Jean Augustine Chair in Education, Community & Diaspora at York University, Toronto, Canada.

    Leanne E. Taylor is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Education at Brock University, St. Catharines, Canada, and Editor in Chief of the Journal of the International Society for Teacher Education.

    This is a must-read for educators, administrators, social scientists, policymakers, students, community members or anyone interested in the aspirations and challenges first-generation students face in navigating both higher education and society in general. James and Taylor offer the reader a sensitive and respectful analysis through a deep dive into the complex lives and "counterstories" provided by a group of nontraditional students attending one Canadian university through an access or "bridging" program. What this volume clearly illustrates is not only the importance of these programs but also the various strengths required of students from marginalized backgrounds as they endeavor to make better lives for themselves and their families through higher education.

    Martin D. Ruck, Professor of Urban Education and Director, CUNY Pipeline Program, The Graduate Center, City University of New York


    Centering the experiences of first-generation students who confront multiple barriers to postsecondary education, this rich, evocative book challenges widely held views about the "ideal" college or university student. James and Taylor brilliantly locate the lives of first-generation students in the complex dynamics of family, community, citizenship, and the demands of the everyday. Through the realities of eight protagonists, they make the compelling case that first-generation students and their families hold deep aspirations for education and its promise of a better life. Above all, this book is about the power of counterstories and what they reveal about agency and determination.  

    Erica S. Lawson, Associate Professor, Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, Western University, Canada  

    Here we meet Kofi, Tristana, Laura, Jasmine, Amy, Ewart, and Jafari – first-generation Canadians in a program enabling them to attend University. In chapters about each student, the authors make sense of their lives and education in this counter tour de force. Across each page is a yearning to be human against normalized poverty, racism, criminalization, queerphobia, domestic violence, and sexual abuse that backdrops shifting lives and hopes. Passions and dreams are found, lost, and reconfigured. Raising profound questions about structure, belonging, citizenship, and selective immigration policy, this book also tells a moving story about the power of caring adults.

    Julia Hall, Professor, Educational Leadership & Policy, D’Youville University, Buffalo, New York