First-generation students building community at New College

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First-generation students will come together for a day of community building and fellowship on Thursday, Nov. 8, during First-Generation College Student Recognition Day.
The Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity (CEO) will kick off the celebration with its Coffee, Tea and Careers event. Students can receive career advice and treats from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. at the CEO office located at the corner of the Cook Library next to the walkway to Pei Campus.
Many faculty and staff members are also the first in their families to graduate from a four-year institution, and they can be a source of information and support for New College students. Dean of Student Affairs Robin Williamson, the first in her family to graduate from college, invites everyone at New College who is a first-generation college graduate to come together and share their stories at 11:30 a.m. outside of Hamilton Center.
“I know firsthand how a college education can change the course of your life,” said the dean. “I work daily to create opportunities and support an environment that allows students to figure out who it is they are meant to be and how to be the best version of themselves.”
Melissa Doreus, the assistant director of student success programs and a first-generation college graduate, will be outside of Hamilton Center with her team to hand out “I’m First!” magnets. Doreus also encourages the New College community to join a listserve of first-generation persons on campus to help her office organize future events.

Building support for first-generation students “a gradual process”

reating resources for first-generation students requires institutional leadership, Sara Friend and Andreina Carrasquero also view student-led initiatives as an integral part of the process. “I’d rather talk to another student than talk up to an authority figure,” said Friend.
Carrasquero agreed. “I’m more likely to attend an event if someone I know and can relate to is going, rather than someone in a position of authority,” said the first-generation student.
Friend organized First Gen Chat, the final event of First-Generation College Student Recognition Day at New College. The chat will take place at the Gender and Diversity Center, and it will give first-generation students an opportunity to share their experiences, build community and identify needs.
She was disappointed with the lack of programming for first-generation students when she arrived on campus, but Friend says she sees improvements.
“Orientation had an affinity group for first-generation students for the first time this year. It’s a gradual process. You can’t build it overnight.”

Institutional leadership and support for first-generation students

Dean Williamson is committed to being part of that process. “In our Office for Student Success Programs, you will find opportunities to learn about time management, stress management, note-taking skills and other skills that can help you in the classroom.”
“We have other staff and offices that provide direct support for connection and engagement on campus,” the dean continued. “Your library staff can also be a great resource to first gen students. And, of course, your faculty want you to learn and grow.”
The most important thing students can do to get the support they need, according to Dean Williamson, is ask for it.
“Do not be afraid to ask for help,” she says. “Faculty and staff are committed to student success and want you to achieve your goals. Even if you don’t know what specifically to ask, let someone on campus know you need assistance.”
Learn more about first-generation students, faculty and staff at New College throughout the week on our social media platforms.