In On Social Mobility: A Brief History of First Generation College Students@Michigan: 2007-2019 Dwight Lang examines experiences and conditions of student upward mobility in higher education, in general, and on one public, selective college campus: The University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He documents the origins and growth of an undergraduate group for students who are first in their families to attend and graduate from college. Starting in 2007 we see early years of the group’s establishment in the Department of Sociology. As First-gens@Michigan evolves over the next decade we better understand how a grassroots, student movement helps inspire a university to publicly acknowledge the complexities of social class heritage and diversity. On Social Mobility explores various institutional changes that eventually lead to the establishment of a new student center: First Generation Student Gateway.
Lang describes how working and lower class students openly acknowledge and struggle with challenging experiences on a predominantly middle and upper middle class campus. We appreciate how first generation students are risk takers, boundary crosser, and successful social class immigrants. Resourceful first-gen efforts become the basis of connection and community as students begin their social mobility journeys. Overtime a public story emerges: stories making the invisible visible; stories of courage and persistence; stories of structural changes; a thoughtful student movement that is hard to ignore. We come to better understand the power of shared determination.
Dwight Lang is Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and Professor Emeritus at Madonna University, in Livonia, Michigan. Since 2008 he has been Faculty Adviser to First Generation College Students@Michigan, an undergraduate group for students who are first in their families to attend college. His publications include: Social Class Voices: Student Stories from the University of Michigan Bicentennial, Michigan Publishing, 2017, (edited with Aubrey Schiavone); “The Social Construction of a Working Class Academic,” in This Fine Place So Far From Home: Voices of Academics from the Working Class, C.L. Barney Dews and Carolyn Leste Law (eds), Temple University Press, 1995; “Those of Us from Rio Linda,” in Class Lives: Stories from Across Our Economic Divide, Chuck Collins, et. al. (eds), Cornell University Press, 2014; “Social Mobility Comes at a Cost,” The Chronicle of Higher Education: Diversity in Academe, September 28, 2018, P. B22/24; “Singing the First-Generation Blues,” The Chronicle of Higher Education: Diversity in Academe, Volume LXI, Number 36, May 22, 2015, P. A18-A19; “Witnessing Social Class in the Academy,” in Working in Class: Recognizing How Social Class Shapes Our Academic Work, Allison Hurst and Sandi Kawecka (eds), Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.