Freshman year is all about firsts: First time living away from home; first midterm exam; first roommate; and for some students, it’s the first time anyone in their family has attended college.
In addition to the typical firsts most new students experience, first-generation students face a unique set of challenges. Next week, UNC Greensboro will celebrate its first-generation college students, faculty and staff in an effort to provide continued support.
“First G at the G” is a weeklong series of events, beginning Nov. 5 and wrapping up on the 8th. Programming is meant to help first-generation students connect with each other, faculty and staff, as well as learn about campus resources.
“Our main goal is to identify students, faculty and staff and allies on campus who are first-generation and celebrate them,” said Kelli Thomas, coordinator for Residence Life Ragsdale/Mendenhall. “I’m hoping this will become more of a regular thing – not just once a year.”
Thomas said organizing the series was a cross-campus effort with leaders from Housing & Residence Life, the Office of Leadership & Civic Engagement, the Office of Intercultural Engagement, the UNCG-McNair Scholars Program, Spartan Start Up, Student Support Services and UNCG Guarantee.
The signature program is a panel discussion and special message from Provost Dana Dunn on Thursday, Nov. 8, when colleges and universities around the country will celebrate the success of first-generation college students, faculty and staff. Below is the full “First G at the G” schedule:
- First G Stop & Chat: How TRiO Works – EUC Commons, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
- First G Dialogue: EUC 062 Office of Intercultural Engagement, 5:30 to 7 p.m.
- First G Mix & Mingle: Quad Lawn, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. (Rain location: Tillman-Smart Room)
- First G Celebration: EUC Kirkland room, 3:30 to 5 p.m.
First-generation students made up a third of currently enrolled undergraduate students in 2014, according to the U.S. Department of Education. At UNCG, TRiO Student Support Services reports 168 first-generation students enrolled.
These students are more likely to live off-campus, attend college close to home, attend school part-time and work full-time while in college, Thomas said. Many first-generation students are nontraditional (commuter, transfer, returning, foster, married, etc.) and therefore have a peripheral identity due to responsibilities outside of school. Some students (particularly from immigrant backgrounds) may serve as cultural brokers or translators. Many have high expectations placed on them as the first to attend college.
First-generation students also have a strong sense of pride; they are independent, persistent, highly motivated and resilient, Thomas said.
Thomas, who was the first in her family to attend a four-year institution, has a passion for helping students who share her experience as an undergraduate. While her parents were very supportive of her education, she had to learn on her own how to navigate the typical challenges of freshman year: buying books, finding classes and becoming familiar with a brand-new environment.
Thomas came up with “First G at the G” to ensure UNCG’s first-generation students – including graduate students and all existing students – can find the resources and support they need to be successful.
To learn more about the First-Generation College Celebration and NASPA’s Center for First-Generation Student Success, visit the website.
By Elizabeth L. Harrison