As with so many campuses, we approach another finals week trying to determine how to help students when they will most likely not be on campus during said finals week. Students will be away from campus for 9 weeks – that’s a long time to have to continue to study and work without their usual support environment. We are particularly aware at SMU that first-generation students are even more at risk in that situation, when they may not have a family at home that understands what the students need to succeed, or what resources are available at campus to help them succeed.

So the Friday after the election, when everyone was still refreshing various apps incessantly to see if a winner had been called yet, several student success groups gathered in an outside space, socially distanced with tables and other props, to remind first gen students all the resources available to them once they left campus. I was there to represent SMU libraries, with a cutout of my boss, Jonathan (our Undergraduate Success Librarian), a sign advertising our Research and Writing Lab (offered in conjunction with the campus Writing Center), and my laptop displaying the research guide that I’d created in the preceding week for first-generation students.

[Image description: A cardboard cutout of a male librarian, wearing a tag that says, “Hello! My name is Jonathan;” an actual female librarian (wearing a mask) encouraging SMU Mustangs to “Pony up!” by giving what appears to be air quotes; a sign for the Research and Writing Lab, with further information that is unreadable; and a table that has a sign with a QR code, a basket of stress-relief balls shaped like brains, and a laptop open to a research guide for first-generation students.]

While the event was attended sparsely by students, I met a few that were thankful for the resources we offer – one woman came up to the table and told me she knew we offered lots of help because she chats with us frequently; several others scanned the QR code for our research guide to save the resources for later. And I met several campus leaders from other offices that were eager to learn about our services, including a new diversity officer with whom I exchanged information and discussed the possibility of special workshops for first-generation and minority students.

As 3:00 rolled around and we all began wiping the sweat off of our brows, we were happy in the knowledge that we had helped at least a few more students, and we’d educated both students and staffers about services on campus. I packed up my cart, put (the cardboard cutout of) my boss under my arm, and trekked back to Fondren Library to wrap up the day.