Dr. Mike Iosia speaking to current First-Gen students at Latte in the Library
Lee University hosted “First-Generation Week” to celebrate first-generation college students and raise awareness about the challenges they face. The event included informational booths from different Lee departments, the Career and Internship Expo, Latte in the Library, and Culture Fest.
According to Dr. Kevin Ung, director of the McNair Scholars Program, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2021) reports that educational attainment is strongly correlated with employment rate and earning potential over a lifetime. “Thus, the work of first-generation college students today is effectually dismantling familial poverty and establishing future generational wealth,” said Dr. Ung. “When our students commit themselves to Lee, we have an obligation to them and their families to drive them towards graduation and beyond. This support comes from a holistic university commitment from faculty and staff to provide campus resources, course engagement, and communal encouragement.”
The first-generation information booths highlighted the resources available to first-generation students on Lee’s campus, including financial aid, counseling, success coaches, career and student employment opportunities, scholarship programs, and other offerings.
The Career & Internship Expo was the largest on record with 50 recruiters, looking to engage with students about internships, full-time and part-time job opportunities.
“I feel supported and encouraged to do my best,” said D.W. Hall, current first-gen senior, math major. “I think Lee does a good job of providing resources to help me succeed.”
Students were also invited to Latte in the Library for discussion with Dr. Mike Iosia, professor of exercise physiology who shared his experience as a former first-generation college student and answered questions from current first-generation students at Lee.
Culture Fest concluded First-Generation Week and featured a fashion show, music, poetry, and dancing from Lee’s international students and a collaborative performance by Evangelistic Singers and Lee University Campus Choir. Following Culture Fest, students had the opportunity to try foods from different countries represented on campus at a special reception.
Throughout the week, Lee’s Office of Student Engagement also released a series of videos on Instagram from first-generation students, administrators, and faculty to offer words of encouragement and advice from their collegiate journey.
The week was organized by Dr. Ung; Jeni Turner, McNair Scholars Program coordinator; Alex Staup, director of student engagement; Dr. Angela Waltrip, director of the Learn Engage Achieve Program; Kristin Pope, director of the Calling and Career Center; and Gloria Scott-Richmond, director of racial and ethnic relations.
LEAP 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. The McNair Scholars Program, which began at Lee in 2017, is designed to provide first-generation and underrepresented students with academic, financial, cultural, and social support and cultivate an interdisciplinary community of scholars who prepare for graduate school through seminars, workshops, campus visits, research experience, and academic conferences.
First-Generation Week is a nationwide celebration to raise awareness and increase advocacy for these students. By participating in the First-Generation Week celebration, Lee hopes to highlight the resources available and the community of first-generation students, faculty, and staff at Lee. As part of the celebration, Lee staff and faculty received “Celebrate First-Gen” bracelets and “I’m First” lapel pins. “#CelebrateFirstGen” is a nationwide hashtag for all celebrations that occurred around the country.
For more information about First-Generation College Celebration Week, visit https://firstgen.naspa.org/.
Students had the opportunity to learn about internships, full-time, and part-time jobs that are available to them through the Career Expo