University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown

'First at Pitt-Johnstown' Program is an Introduction to College Life, Expectations

First-generation college students gained an introduction to college life during the 2018 Fall Term through a program titled First at Pitt-Johnstown, which is coordinated by Academic Success Center Director Katherine Kinsinger, EdD, along with help from ASC graduate assistant Maggie Ristow.

The program's students are undergraduates whose parents or legal guardians did not graduate from a four-year college. It is an often-overlooked segment of the student population that can have a difficult time adjusting to campus culture and persisting toward graduation.

The National Center for Education Statistics has reported that 30 percent of all entering freshmen are first-generation students. Pitt-Johnstown’s first-generation students comprise 38 percent of the freshmen class.

Pitt-Johnstown received the Provost’s Personalized Education Grant to support the pilot program in which 15 students took a one-credit course that assisted with the academic and personal transition to college.

“I am humbled by my involvement with the first-generation students in our pilot program,” said Dr. Kinsinger, who is in her 14th year as Academic Success Center director.

“I have learned so much from their individual and collective experiences. They have shared their challenges and resiliency, inspiring me to continue to find ways to support our first-generation students.”

First students received mentoring from faculty members, who also were first-generation college students. The grant-funded initiative also includes:

  • Data collection efforts, including quantitative and qualitative feedback related to the expectations and experiences of first-generation students at Pitt-Johnstown; and
  • Development of first-generation print and online materials, designed to offer advice and support to prospective first-generation students and their families.

The program will continue during the 2019 Spring Term funded by the one-year grant.

Academic Success Center Director Katherine Kinsinger, EdD, (foreground) with First students

Academic Success Center Director Katherine Kinsinger, EdD, (foreground) meets with some of the 'First at Pitt-Johnstown' students during their Fall 2018 reception.


The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown was founded in 1927 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” The distinctive combination of Pitt-Johnstown’s people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World.