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What I Wish My Professor Knew

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First-Generation and/or Low-Income (FLI) students are a significant part of the student body. In Fall 2014, a group of students from Stanford's student-run FLI Partnership (FLIP) created a program called "What I Wish My Professor Knew" to help faculty understand how their classroom practices could contribute to feeling alienated or welcomed at Stanford.

It is important to consider the perspective of FLI students in order to make learning inclusive to all. The video provides a brief introduction to some of the relevant issues for FLI students at Stanford.

The "What I Wish My Professor Knew" video provides a brief introduction to some of the issues for FLI students at Stanford.

What I wish my professor knew about facing COVID-19

FLI students are a significant part of the student body and some of the most vulnerable students at Stanford. Often dealing with barriers to success in the best of times, FLI students are heavily impacted by COVID-19.

Over March 10–April 11, 2020, FLIP collected 161 student responses on the challenges FLI students face and their needs during the pandemic. They assembled these responses into the following presentation to help professors understand FLI student needs from student’s own voices, and what they can do to help them succeed. 

Findings

  • Four out of five FLI students face circumstances that make academic success difficult.
  • Three out of five FLI students are concerned about access to resources.
  • One in every two FLI students are worried about stable housing and/or food.

Responses had four key themes

  • Students lack access to resources for academic success.
  • Students are faced with issues bigger than academics, such as financial, housing, and food insecurity.
  • Students have added mental stress and anxiety over family health and financial survival.
  • Students have a difficult time reaching out to faculty to discuss their problems.

Highlights from the Q&A

Q: How can professors make classes more accessible in ways useful to students?

A: Freely available course materials, recorded lectures, uploaded slides, and flexibility with student needs is key. Because of the challenges FLI students are facing, they may be unable to attend lectures or afford course materials.

A: Recognizing the struggles posed by the pandemic, professors should focus on the most important aspects of courses for learning and enjoying the material. This may mean less testing or a more open-ended curriculum.


Q: What resources are available for FLI students through Stanford during the pandemic?

A: FLI students received a $2,000 stipend to help cover groceries and basic expenses. The Financial Aid Office is working with students who need assistance for housing. The Learning Hub and Financial Aid are working to provide students with internet or equipment.

A: Although some resources are available, many students who need them may not yet have or know about them. FLIP has an FLI-Guide to COVID-19 with a list of resources instructors can direct students to, either directly in their syllabus or by copying specific resources and citing FLIP for the full document.


Q: How can professors help make students feel comfortable discussing their needs? 

A: Professors should explicitly state they should be comfortable discussing their concerns, either directly, with TAs, or even through FLIP if that’s how they’re most comfortable. Student feedback should always be welcome and discussion open.

See the full summary and event recording

For full details of the Spring 2020 event, in which FLIP collected 161 student responses on the challenges FLI students face and their needs during the pandemic, see the Speaker Notes and Further Resources.

Video recording of the Spring 2020 What I Wish My Professor Knew event