November 8 is the National Celebration of first-generation students

First-generation students have an opportunity to network and connect during the event

Bridget Maxwell

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Networking for First-Generation on November 8.

First-generation students make up 25% of the population on campus at UW-Eau Claire. This networking event is an opportunity to make connections with first-generation professors and staff. 

The event runs from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Nov. 8 at the Davies Center. Participating faculty and staff will wear t-shirts to celebrate the event. There, they will share their experiences and discuss other tools to be successful throughout college. 

“(It is) a day to recognize that they are not alone,” Billy Felz, interim vice chancellor for enrollment management, said. 

The university wants to lend support to students who don’t have access to the “hidden curriculum.”  Felz said there are a lot of first-generation students whose parents don’t have experiences in a college or the inner workings of its general structure. This leads to a lot of missed information. 

There is a gap in information within the “hidden curriculum” between students who have had parents attend a university and those who didn’t. Billy Felz said he plans on ensuring students have the same opportunities and are connected to a network of help and guidance is a top priority.  

At the celebration, there will be selfie frames, free t-shirts and a chance to be in a video for the new website for first-generation students. There is also the opportunity to connect with local alumni and network with them, too. 

Felz said that having a place where students feel supported is vital in college. Knowing you have a support system within the university is a comforting feeling. 

“(We want to) eliminate those obstacles and (give) students a safe place to ask questions and also get help,” Quincy Chapman, the Housing and Residence Life director, said.  

Chapman said it is important to have a level playing field since it increases morale and encourages equal opportunities for all. This is to provide future opportunities to help along their journey.

The Postsecondary National Policy Institute collected data and deduced first-generation students are more likely to enroll in for-profit institutions than their peers. The disparity of knowledge can lead to unknowing self-sabotage decision-making. 

Felz said every student has an equal shot at success here regardless of your background. While also highlighting their struggles and realizing the discrepancy between first-generation students and non-first-generation students.

 “Having opportunities, like these career fairs where you can meet people and make connections, help students like myself make up the ground lost from never having these previous learning experiences,” Annie Ward, a fourth-year journalism student, said. 

There can be instances where prior knowledge would be helpful in a situation. Ward said she remembers the experience of walking into the classroom for the first time and being taken back. She felt out of place and had no idea that the classroom was going to be that big.

Ward said everyone seemed to know where exactly to sit and what to get out. She also said she is glad that UW-Eau Claire is taking steps in helping first-generation students. 

Chapman also said a bridge between these “hidden curriculums” is one way to help these students. Giving students special events and occasions allows them to feel appreciated and seen on campus and provides an opportunity to have their voice represented and heard. 

Maxwell can be reached at [email protected]