Sharing the First-Gen Experience

by Julia Munemo

Students, faculty, and staff from 30 colleges and universities came to Williams April 9 to share their experiences of and delve into issues related to being a first-generation college student.

The theme of the fourth annual First Generation College Student Summit was cultivating institutional change. Events scheduled throughout the day included a presentation about creating a network of resources across colleges and universities as well as a Williams alumni panel called “Transforming the Academy.” Some of the sessions were cross-listed with the Bolin Legacy Celebration, taking place on campus April 8-9.unnamed

Rosanna Reyes, associate dean of the college and a first-gen student as an undergraduate at Rutgers University, says first-gen students often feel stigmatized and can’t always find the support they need because their status is invisible. “You can’t tell if someone is first gen just by looking at them,” she says. “Yet these students bring a diversity of life experiences to campus, and it’s important to support them and ensure they’re included in the wider community.”

Reyes and Veila Alejandra Moran ’17, a biology and psychology double major who plans to attend medical school, worked together to plan this year’s summit. Last year, when it was held at Wellesley College, the two co-presented with Olivier Joseph ’17 about Williams’ pre-orientation program for first-gen students. “We discussed the positive impact this orientation has and explained how it provides an easier transition into college,” Moran says.

Moran says the summits connect her to students on other campuses “who have had similar experiences to mine, and it makes me thankful that I can share these experiences, even if they’re not always positive.” She hoped that, by hosting the summit this year, “Williams can help break the stigma of the first generation label, show the multiple identities that we embody, and strengthen our community on campus.”

Read more about the first-gen summit.