Approximately 670 undergraduate students at Augusta University this year are the first in their family to seek a college degree.
During the week of Nov. 2-6, Augusta University will celebrate those first-generation college students and help provide them with inspiration, information and support on their road to attaining a college degree.
“As a fellow first-generation college student, I couldn’t be prouder of these students and all that they’ve accomplished in getting here,” said Augusta University President Brooks A. Keel, PhD. “I want the first-generation college students to know that you can do this with the support of Jag Nation and the academic and student success resources available to you. Get involved, make connections, and never be afraid to tell someone when you need help.”
The faculty and academic advisors at Augusta University are ready and eager to assist students in need of guidance throughout their college career, Keel said.
First-generation college students should also review the university’s academic and student success resources, including financial aid, scholarships, academic success resources, student engagement and student research opportunities, he said.
“On behalf of everyone at Augusta University, we are rooting for you and cannot wait to see all that you will achieve,” Keel said to the first-generation college students this year.
Lyndsey Williams Mayweather, the director of New Student and Family Transitions at Augusta University, said the first-generation college celebration allows the university to reach out to these students who are creating a new legacy for their families as future college graduates.
“This celebration gives us an opportunity to have a conversation with our first-generation college students and get them the resources they need to help them succeed,” Mayweather said. “We want to celebrate them and to let them know that we understand that being a first-generation college student is exciting, but it also comes with some possible challenges and we are here to assist them.”
Read more on the JagNation blog: Celebrating First-Generation Student Lauren Ramos
The Division of Enrollment and Student Affairs at Augusta University is spearheading the week-long celebration, but the university’s faculty and staff are encouraged to participate in several events planned throughout the week, Mayweather said.
“There will be a letter-writing campaign to first-generation students and I think one event that I’m probably most excited about is actually the virtual event for their families on Thursday, Nov. 5,” Mayweather said. “Often, a first-generation student might come to college and their family is excited for them, but they also have no idea what the student is actually doing. So, being able to talk to the families about what their students are actually up to is important to helping these students succeed.”
While about 670 undergraduates are first-generation college students at Augusta University, about 138 of those students are freshmen this year, Mayweather said.
Read more: Advice for First-Generation Students from Dr. William Hatcher
“Therefore, 13.68% of the freshman class is identified as a first-generation college student,” she said. “And the total number of 670 first-generation students make up 11.78% of the entire undergraduate population.”
Mayweather hopes that celebrating and connecting these students to each other will encourage them to never give up on their dream of earning a degree.
“I believe it will definitely let them know that they’re not alone and that there are other people who are either having a similar experience or can at least relate to what they are going through,” she said. “We want them to know that there is an entire support system available to both them and their families at the university, because it’s not just the student who’s coming to college. It really is the whole family that’s coming to school.”
The Division of Enrollment and Student Affairs intends to make this an annual celebration that develops into a program that continues throughout the year.
“We don’t want this to just be a one-time event and it’s done,” Mayweather said. “We want it to actually become a monthly program for us where we start to look at what ongoing resources we can offer to our first-generation students to make sure that they get to graduation.”
Joe Pierce, the director of Student Engagement at Augusta University, is a first-generation college student himself and he knows the challenges these students face.
“For me, when I was in college, everything was brand new and I didn’t know what to expect,” he said. “One of the most eye-opening experiences that I had was understanding that you can be friendly with your faculty. When I first came to college, I felt like my professors were almost untouchable, if you will.”
“Being able to build those relationships with the faculty really stood out to me as something that I had no idea about,” he said. “Also, learning about some of the cool aspects that come along with college, such as opportunities like study abroad, was incredible.
“As a first-generation student, I was just really focused on the basics of, I need to study, get good grades and graduate. But there are a lot of extra pieces that come along with a college experience.”
Read more: Celebrating First-Generation Student Lauren Browning
The first-generation college celebration will help students explore and engage in aspects of the university that they might not even know exist, Pierce said.
“I think the excitement around the celebration and the T-shirts and buttons celebrating these first-generation college students will provide a welcoming place for them on campus,” Pierce said. “After all, it’s not like you can walk around and people just know that someone else is also a first-generation college student. So, to see faculty and staff that are first-generation graduates like myself, and to see other students that are first-generation students, will let those students know that, No. 1, you can do it and, No. 2, you’re not the only one on that journey right now.
“We want them to know that we recognize how much courage, grit and resilience it takes to be a first-generation college student and we are here to help.”
For more information about the First-Generation College Student Celebration Week contact Lyndsey Williams-Mayweather.