Michael Wenye Li / Sun File Photo

Graduate students gather at virtual events through the Big Red Barn.

November 26, 2019

New Campus Group Seeks To Provide Resources for First-Gen College Students

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When Rachel King grad reached out to Felicia New grad about founding an organization for first-generation and low-income students in Cornell’s graduate programs, she leapt at the chance. As a first-generation student herself, she understood the struggles faced by these students.

“My college years were sometimes difficult because of the so-called “hidden curriculum,” New told The Sun, “I was not aware that there are opportunities available for undergraduates to pursue research projects in labs, and I never fully understood what office hours were.”

For New, founding this organization, named the First Generation and Low Income Graduate Student Organization, was not simply recognizing first-generation and low-income students on Cornell’s campus, but providing them with a supportive community and resources to help them flourish.

On Sept. 11, graduate students gathered in the Big Red Barn for First Generation and Graduate Student Organization FiGLI Fall Kickoff. There, members were greeted to Cornell’s campus and given the opportunity to learn more about FiGLI and meet one another.

“It’s such a good feeling to talk to others in your situation and to know you are not alone in navigating the challenges of being a first-generation and/or low-income graduate student,” New, who is now the treasurer of FiGLI, said.

FiGLI has a more ambitious goal. The organization hopes to “provide services such as tutoring and after school support to local students and engage with the Greater Ithaca area undergraduate community next semester,” Taylor Brown grad, one of the FiGLIs co-founders and its vice president, said.

“I always felt like I had to work harder than my peers to keep up with where their ‘starting point’ was, given their social capital,” Brown said, “Instead of having family members that I could ask for help navigating academia… I was constantly having to seek those resources out on my own, and hope that I was preparing myself with the correct information.”

In order to help mitigate some of the impediments that first-generation and low-income students face, FiGLI invites people who were the first in their families to attend college or come from a low-income background to speak to students through seminars. Additionally, they connect members with resources and provides them with skill-building workshops.

“I think that being involved in the organization has really helped me find people who are going through the same things that I am” said Brown.

Since their debut, they have hosted 4 events, one of which was their fall business meeting. FiGLI has already been making an impact on Cornell’s campus.

“I believe that FiGLI’s presence on Cornell’s campus will send a message to future first-generation graduate students and graduate students from low income backgrounds,” King, FiGLI’s president, said, “there is a community ready to welcome them here, and they are valued for the unique perspectives and experiences they bring to this campus.”