Date Created



In this session, an English instructor, digital initiatives librarian, and archivist will discuss an interdepartmental collaboration that integrates a digital story-telling project into first-generation undergraduate instruction. They will talk about the project goals, lesson plan, and learning outcomes; procedures for placing student-created oral histories in the digital repository; student reactions to the project; and lessons learned.

This project focuses on first-generation students, a population that is growing at colleges and universities across the nation and receiving increased attention in the library and archives literature. At the University of Northern Colorado (UNC), approximately 40% of the undergraduate population is classified as first-generation. These students represent one of the most diverse populations on campus; many are minorities and/or come from underprivileged backgrounds. To enhance the success and retention of these students, the Center for Human Enrichment (CHE) program provides support through instruction, tutoring, and academic advising. First-year CHE participants follow a specialized curriculum of cohort courses, including College Composition and Introduction to Library Research, which are either taught or supported by faculty at UNC Libraries.

The existing relationship between CHE and the Libraries has been strengthened in recent years by the development of the Student Voices project, an innovative collaboration that captures oral histories documenting the first-generation freshman experience and makes them available via the Libraries’ digital repository. The goal of the project is twofold: to document the perspectives and experiences of first-generation students, which have been largely absent within the university historical record, while simultaneously delivering instruction in primary sources and archival practice.

The project is delivered as a classroom assignment, with the resulting oral history recordings collected by the UNC Archives and Special Collections and placed in the digital repository. Faculty from the UNC Libraries co-present a guest lecture to the CHE College Composition cohort classes, touching on such topics as the purpose of archives, digitization and copyright, and best practices for creating oral histories. Replicating the Story Corps model, students then interview each other in groups of two or three as part of an out-of-class assignment. They are asked to discuss topics such as their first impressions of campus, experiences adjusting to university life, and their expectations for college in addition to the expectations that others may have for them. Along with engaging with classmates to create a meaningful and substantive video or audio oral history, students learn to navigate technical issues of recording and submitting a digital file.

While several substantive oral interviews have resulted from this project, it has not been without challenges. First–generation freshmen have unique needs, and challenges arose due to the presenter’s expectations about their experience and prior knowledge. The session will offer a case study that covers both digital initiatives in undergraduate instruction and interdisciplinary collaboration between campus units. Speakers will explore issues of teaching, engaging, and incorporating digital initiative concepts into first-generation education. Attendees will receive ideas for implementing similar collaborations at their institutions.

Document Type


Place of Publication

Greeley (Colo.)

Rights Statement

Copyright is held by the authors.

Digital Origin

Born digital