Lee Hosts Inaugural First-Generation Celebration Day

Monday, November 18, 2019 - by Merritt Jenkins, Lee University
Students enjoy First-Generation Day activities on Lee’s campus
Students enjoy First-Generation Day activities on Lee’s campus

The Lee University TRIO Student Support Services and Lee University TRIO McNair Scholars Program recently co-hosted the inaugural “First-Generation College Celebration Day” on Lee University’s campus.

The event was co-organized by Dr. Roy Y. Chan, director of the TRIO SSS (LEAP), and Dr. Kevin Ung, director of the TRIO McNair Scholars Program.

“First-generation college students have shared beginnings but divergent paths on their route to Lee University,” said Dr. Chan. “The goal of our event is to not only build awareness of these growing populations but to also help the Lee community define, decipher, and discuss the experiences, issues, and successes of first-generation college graduates in the landscape of Christian education.”

The day consisted of several activities for first-generation and continuing-generation students, including a mural for students to write and reflect upon the meaning of identifying as first-gen, a cash cab for students to receive candies and fun facts about first-gen students, first-gen trivia game, a photo booth with the TRIO logo backdrop, as well as free food and snacks.

Presently, more than one-fourth (1,500) of the Lee’s undergraduate body are first-generation college students. The primary objective of this event is to raise awareness of the barriers and challenges first-generation students face, while celebrating the diversity of the students’ experiences. Lee faculty and staff members received a special ribbon to recognize Lee’s first-gen faculty and staff members.

“It was a privilege to work alongside outstanding students, faculty, and administrators to set a day aside to not only recognize the invisible barriers and challenges that our first-generation college students face, but also to celebrate the diversity of Lee’s student body,” said Dr. Ung. “This collaborative effort shines a light on the beauty and complexities of the student experience in solidarity with our university leaders who traversed the same journey in years past.”

Lee University is the only institution in the entire southeastern region and the state of Tennessee with a TRIO SSS and McNair Scholars program that is part of the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. Lee University is the first CCCU member institution in the United States to host a first-generation college celebration day for students on campus.

This campus event took place in conjunction with several national organizations including the Council for Opportunity in Education and National Association of Student Personnel Administrators. Hundreds of colleges around the country participated in this national event, with some dedicating the entire week.

For more information about First-Generation College Celebration Day, visit https://firstgen.naspa.org.

The Federal TRIO Programs include eight federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for students who face an array of particular challenges to their university success. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/trio/ 

LEAP (Learn, Engage, and Achieve Program) began at Lee in 2015 to provide individual success coaching, peer mentors, direct student aid, financial aid counseling, financial literacy education, cultural and academic enrichment opportunities, and other personalized services according to individual students’ needs. http://www.leeuniversity.edu/leap/

The Lee University McNair Scholars Program is designed to support highly motivated scholars as they strive to achieve their educational goals by providing them with academic, financial, cultural, and social support and cultivates an interdisciplinary community of scholars who prepare for graduate school through seminars, workshops, campus visits, research experience, and academic conferences.  http://www.leeuniversity.edu/mcnair/

Organizers of the Lee University First-Generation Celebration Day, from left, Dr. Roy Y. Chan; Angela Waltrip, community coordinator of LEAP TRIO grant; Rachel Collins, graduate assistant for McNair; Dr. Michaelia Black, coordinator of McNair Scholars program; and Dr. Kevin Ung
Organizers of the Lee University First-Generation Celebration Day, from left, Dr. Roy Y. Chan; Angela Waltrip, community coordinator of LEAP TRIO grant; Rachel Collins, graduate assistant for McNair; Dr. Michaelia Black, coordinator of McNair Scholars program; and Dr. Kevin Ung

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