Professor focuses on assisting first-gen college students

Jasmine Soria
Staff Writer 

Ronald Hallett, professor of organizational leadership, presented his lecture “Create A Culture of Ecological Validation for Low-Income, Racially Minoritized, and First-Generation College Students” Tuesday at the Howell Board Room.

The lecture focused on the research project, PASS, Promoting At-Promise Student Success, which focuses on helping first generation students their path to attending college and graduating. 

Hallett is involved in PASS, which is a part of the USC Rossier Pullias Center for High Education. At-Promise is a term used to describe students who have a social or economic disadvantage. Many times there are low-income students or first-generation students that need extra help and guidance adjusting to the University. 

“It was intriguing, and I myself have experienced being really fragmented and out of place during my time at the University,” Dakoda Talamontes, sophomore biology major, said. 

The PASS project is working to solve 2 challenges; students are being accepted to the University, but not graduating. Another issue that is being addressed is universities are structured in cliques that make it difficult for students to actually seek and receive help.

“There has been a lot of times where I have questions, and I don’t know where to go, by the time I struggle to figure it out, it is a little too late,” Michael Torre, sophomore biology major, said.

The Thompson Scholars Learning Community, a scholarship for about 1,200 students that attend the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Nebraska-Omaha, or the University of Nebraska-Kearney, was a key study for the PASS project. Students a part of the program received personalized help from student affairs; they had relationships with faculty members that reached out to them and helped them throughout their time at the University. 

PASS studied this program and how it positively impacted students. They discovered that the most important and key difference was to have a trusted relationship between the students, in more scientific terms, ecological validation.

“Validation theory has been tested so many times and expanded into K-12 and senior services; what I am finding in my own research is validation tells us what to do and hospitality, other contents of looking at emotional safety, and spiritual safety, tells us how to do it” Yvette Latunde, professor of organizational leadership, said.

When it comes to university students, ecological validation is when the student always feels that they are on the inside, one with the university. 

This type of approach is meant to make students feel welcomed, listened to, and genuinely cared for. Hallett mentioned that most universities have a traditional campus where different policies overlap, and when students have questions, the different offices don’t contact one another. This leads to students feeling lost and even alone, having to navigate the university on their own with their questions never answered. 

“A student was struggling with chemistry, most people would say they need tutoring, although, with ecological validation implemented, faculty engaged with them and learned what was going on in their lives that may be affecting their grades,” Hallet said. 

The PASS program mentions that the ecological validation interactions staff have with students have five norms, strength-oriented, holistic, proactive, identity-conscious, and development.

“It starts by bringing people together to learn, and bring different parts of campus to learn together,” said Hallet. 

Jasmine Soria can be reached at


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