Educational Journey

June 24, 2013

Visual art students + First-generation students

Filed under: Dissertation Topic Exploration — Cyndy @ 6:49 am

Research is underway!

First-generation students are at high risk for not completing college. The reasons that first-generation students drop out are plentiful. First-generation students face many barriers to academic success, including academic preparation, employment/economic status, social integration, and in some cases a lack of family support. A first-generation student that chooses a visual art degree may face even more challenges including less artistic preparation, a lack of exposure to art and the social stigma of pursuing an art degree since these have historically been seen as having too low of an earning potential (Neher, 2010).


An additional challenge for this population is that art studies include a unique environment of public peer criticism of their assignments. Unlike math, science or many areas of study where students submit assignments that are only seen by the instructor, an art student displays their work for all of their peers to see and critique. The academic challenges of first-generation students coupled with the additional artistic challenges suggest that successful completion of an art degree is highly unlikely for this population. And yet, many first-generation students do succeed in visual art studies. A Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (2012) study revealed that 32% of graduates of art and design degrees were first-generation students.


Because of the unique barriers to persistence for first-generation students and the added challenges of being an art student, support is needed to help these students persist to graduation. Abundant research is available on the topic of first-generation students; however, little is known about the nontraditional, first-generation student that studies visual arts. Through this qualitative study I hope to help art education leaders better understand the challenges of nontraditional first-generation students studying visual arts so that supportive policies and programs can be created to assist this population in persisting to graduation.


If you were a first-generation student that studied a visual art, were over 25 years old at graduation, and you want to participate in this research please fill out the form at You will be contacted with further information about participation in the study.

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