Leilani Burke/Sun Staff Photographer

Students walk in between classes on the Arts Quad on Nov. 30. 2022.

December 4, 2022

First Generation Students Celebrate With Week of Events

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First Generation and Low Income Student Support organized a series of events from Nov. 7 to Nov. 11 for first-generation, low-income students. The events, geared around National First Gen. Celebration on Nov. 8, were coordinated by several campus partners including the First Generation Student Union  and the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, in an effort to recognize and elevate Cornell’s FGLI students. 

FGSU is an organization for students identifying as first gen-low income and aims to  help them find a community. Throughout the year FGSU puts on  community events, workshops, social community dinners, social bonding events and mentorship programs. 

For the national first generation celebration, FGSU held a free merchandise table and a photo campaign in collaboration with La Asociación Latino

Amisha Chowdhury ’23, a member of FGSU, discussed how connecting the FGLI students with each other is an important aspect to creating a community.  

“Our goal is to connect with other students and cultivate that space so we usually focus on the student outreach part of it,” Chowdhury said. 

Throughout the month of November, FGLI student support, in partnership with offices across campus, hosted a variety of events to support and celebrate first-generation students at Cornell while offering opportunities for students to connect and build community. 

There are a myriad of regularly scheduled events for FGLI students to connect on campus year round. In addition to these events, there are support staff and programs within the different schools that are dedicated to the first-gen population.

According to Dannemart Pierre, director of the Office of First-Generation & Low-Income Student Support, these events are held to recognize and commemorate theFGLI students. 

“I wanted to bring together as many of these offices as possible to celebrate our first generation Cornellians,” Pierre said. “It is an education I hope will be ever growing and developing and I look forward to the many opportunities ahead. Through my work, I want our students to know we see them. And because we see them, we want to celebrate them.”

William Horning, director of the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives, explained why it was important to the University to have these events. 

“Having these events is very important as it creates a space to celebrate students that are the first in their families to go on to college,” Horning said. “It also creates a space for others, staff and faculty, who are also first gen to show their support and recognize the importance of taking that big leap to college.”

This year, Cornell’s class of 2026 has the highest enrollment number ever for FGLI students at 19.9 percent. 

“That’s exciting that we are enrolling more first-gen folks but that also speaks to the need to expand these resources and support as we are seeing high numbers of those who are coming in and identify as first generation,” Chowdhury said. “These events really help to create that space for us to talk about what it means to be a first gen-low income student on campus and it is helpful to build that community with each other and also talk about ways we can improve our support that we receive from the university.”

According to Chowdhury, having first-gen student focused events makes it easier for FGLI students to find a community within Cornell where they can meet others with similar experiences. 

“There were a lot of events with student speakers and panels and table talks leaving space for first gen-low income students to talk about their experiences and cultivate that community,” Chowdhury said. “It is really nice to see collaboration efforts and different departments coming together to collaborate and student organizations coming together as well to speak on low income issues on campus.”

The kickoff event, held on Nov. 7, was Intersecting Identities of First Gen Students, followed by a First Generation Etiquette Dinner. Six very different opportunities were offered for students who identify as first generation or low income. Students participated in a guided discussion on how their first-gen identity intersects with their other held identities. They had opportunities to engage with faculty and graduate students, and connect with young first gen professionals. 

“It was really beautiful to hear the stories and our student leaders did a wonderful job facilitating the conversation,” Horning said.

The OADI lunch had a turnout of about 20 to 25 students and staff where they could talk about their journey and be uplifted by each other.

“The events were really well received and well attended by students – a few even met room capacity. It was wonderful to see that level of enthusiasm and support,” Pierre said. “We also received terrific feedback from students asking to see more opportunities like this where they can meet other first-gen students, faculty, and staff and to share their stories.”

“OADI has been working with first generation students since the 1960s through the different iterations of our office. Several of our signature programs, Arthur O. Eve Opportunity Programs, the Pre Professional Programs, and the Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Scholars Programs all have a focus on first gen students,” Horning said. “Many of our students are also low income and the support is critically important to help provide guidance and support for students as they are the first in their families to navigate the college environment.”

Throughout this semester, the office of First-Generation and Low-Income Student Support worked on expanding their Basic Needs Workshop offerings. Last year, they offered three workshops focusing on the Tompkins County SNAP program. This semester, they partnered with Cornell Dining, Off-Campus Housing, Tompkins County and Student Health Plan to offer six workshops to educate students about the resources for food, housing, and insurance. They are currently planning more workshops in the spring and will include additional topics such as filing taxes and completing the FAFSA. 

The office also partners with other departments to provide resources to students, manage the Access Fund in partnership with Financial Aid and Student Employment, work with Cornell Dining on the Swipe Out Hunger program, support the President’s Council of Cornell Women’s mentoring and oversees support programs for students with undocumented/DACA status.