Skip to content

Topics and Tacos: A Workshop Template for First-Gen Students

August 1, 2022

At Susquehanna University, first-generation college students make up about a third of our student population. I serve on a First-Gen Working Group at SU, and our purpose is to increase awareness and support for these students. When I was asked to serve on the group, I began researching how I could help first-gen students at the library. Most of what I read was that first-gen students tend to avoid asking for help. They assume everyone else knows how college and libraries work, so they try to tough it out on their own.

I decided to break down that barrier and make first-gen students feel more comfortable with the librarians. My hope was that if they saw how friendly we were, then they would be more likely to come to us for help. To accomplish this, I designed a workshop intended for first-gen, first-year and second-year students. I hosted the workshop in the fall ahead of midterms and in the spring before finals. Both workshops were held around dinner time for about an hour. In the fall, we offered walking tacos, and in the spring, we had pizza. While any first- or second-year student could come to the workshop, first-gen students were given priority.

I opened the workshop by discussing some general new services and initiatives the university had implemented for first-gen students. The students were generally not aware of these services, and they were happy to learn about them. After this, I walked them through a paper prompt I had adapted from Teaching Information Literacy: Threshold Concepts Lesson Plans for Librarians (2015, p. 51). So many students were struggling due to pandemic learning, and while many of them had visited the library with their basic English class, they still didn’t seem sure of the overall research process. 

I helped them identify key parts of the paper prompt, and from there, we used Mentimeter to create a word cloud of potential keywords we could search in the library databases. For this activity, I gave them two broad terms, “social media” and “self-esteem,” and they had to submit more specific topics related to those concepts. Once we had some keywords, I demonstrated how we could enter two of these terms into an advanced search. From there, we talked about how to narrow down our topic based off the results we found in our search. I also showed them how to limit the results to peer-reviewed sources or filter by a date range. Once we had determined a research topic together, I gave the group tips on getting the citations and permalinks for the articles to refer to later.

We ended the workshop by encouraging students to share any assignments they were currently working on for a class. Some students didn’t have any, so they finished their food and left. Other students staid for quite a while and allowed us to work one-on-one with them to help identify a topic for their paper and to search for relevant sources. Many of the students who attended expressed how helpful the workshop was, and they recommended we offer it each semester. They were also happy to hear that the library supported first-gen students, and they seemed more comfortable interacting with us as the workshop went on. Hopefully, this meant they would be more eager to come to us for help in the future. We plan on hosting the workshop each fall, as the fall workshop was better attended than the spring one.


Bravender, P., McClure, H., & Schaub, G. (Eds.). (2015). Teaching information literacy: Threshold

concepts lesson plans for librarians. Association for College and Research Libraries.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: