The Foundation for First-Gen Students
When a first-generation student goes to business school, it’s the start of a potential success story. But it’s only the start.
If that student doesn’t have the right support system in place to achieve academically, or doesn’t feel welcome, the ending of the story changes.
First-generation and low-income students often face a different set of challenges than others. “A lot of first-gen students don’t have the same institutional knowledge that others have, especially here at Georgetown, where many students come in with privileged backgrounds,” says Karthikeya Easwar, associate teaching professor in marketing and faculty advisor for Georgetown McDonough’s Business Scholars Program.
“That can be as simple as knowing what resources are available to you. But it can also be basic terminology, including business terminology. With some explanation and the right opportunities, they can benefit from the wonderful tools we have at the school.”
This is the idea behind Business Scholars. The program builds off of the established Community Scholars program, which provides this student population early onboarding and support before school even starts. Business Scholars extends that support and programming throughout a student’s academic career.
For example, Community Scholars who intend to come to McDonough now take a marketing course with Easwar in the summer before their first semester as a way to become familiar with business terminology, case studies, and more. Then, during their first semester as Business Scholars, they take “Mastering the Hidden Curriculum,” a course that covers everything from overcoming imposter syndrome (think “do I belong here?”) to navigating college life.
“The Mastering the Hidden Curriculum course helped me understand the implications that my race and socioeconomic status had on my higher education,” says Business Scholar Senoh Koroma (B’25). “This course gave me the ability to feel comfortable and confident in my identity as a first-generation, low-income student and will remain priceless as I navigate life on campus.”
The group meets for workshops and other events throughout each semester, and the program connects them with key existing resources across campus, such as career services. There were 11 Business Scholars in the first cohort, 16 in the second, and currently 18. The goal, ultimately, is to have about 25 scholars per academic year for a total of 100 in the ongoing program.
The program is now piloting “Preview to” workshops designed to offer these students more early exposure to business concepts. First up is “Preview to Accounting,” which introduces them to basic accounting terminology and background so that they are ready for Accounting 101.
“The idea is that we’re building some familiarity with business, and building a foundation,” Easwar says. “The foundation is key. If you build it, then you can build on top of it. But if you miss that chance to build a foundation, nothing can go on top.”