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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMass Boston celebrates First-Gen Week 2023

Colin Tsuboi
A sign for First-Gen Week located in University Hall. Photo by Colin Tsuboi / Mass Media Staff.

Beginning Monday, Sept. 6, UMass Boston celebrated a week of events that highlighted the first-generation student community. First-gen students, as defined by the university, are the first in their immediate family to attend college. This means that their parents did not complete a four year college or university degree in the United States. This is the widely accepted definition of a “first-gen” student, although at other universities and colleges, this definition can vary.

To start the celebrations off on Monday, students were encouraged to share their story as a first-gen Beacon. On the Campus Center Terrace, all UMass Boston students were able to decorate pots and plant succulents, while exploring ways to be an ally for the undocumented first-gen student community.

On Tuesday, the Graduate Student Government and UMass Boston Writing Center hosted a breakfast for first-gen graduate students. Attendees received tips on how to write better in graduate school. Later, the Academic & Career Engagement & Success Center held a workshop to improve students’ resumes, while participants built custom stuffed animals.

Wednesday afternoon saw National First-Generation College Celebration Day at the Campus Center Terrace. Put forth by Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas and other lawmakers, this national celebration recognizes first-gen students all across the country, as explained by a press release on Senator Warnock’s website. [1] The event in the Campus Center included giveaways, food and other novelties. In Campus Center Ballroom A, a first-gen “networking social” introduced students, faculty, staff and alumni to each other.

Finally, to round off the week’s list of events, a resource fair on Thursday allowed students to explore the many support services and resources available to them. Later that night, the Tri-Alpha First-Gen Honor Society at UMass Boston hosted a movie night for students.

The various events throughout First-Gen Week showcased the UMass Boston community’s support for and inclusion of first-gen students. Not only the efforts to educate and inform students, but also the fun and lighthearted events throughout brought everyone closer together.

Highlighting the experience of first-gen students is vital because of the disadvantages they face. Students whose parents are unable to support them through the college application process, and navigating college life itself, are less likely to graduate with a degree. This is not for lack of trying but because of the high financial cost of college.

Furthermore, many first-gen students come from lower income families and households. For undocumented students, all of the above problems are exacerbated. Without U.S. citizenship, many helpful resources like federal financial aid, grants and loans are unavailable, as explained by the Federal Student Aid office. [2] Whatever the case may be, a first-gen college student often faces challenges their peers do not.

In comparison to a first-gen student, who has no parents with a degree, a “continuing generation” student has at least one parent with a Bachelor’s degree. A 2017 study from the University of Northern Iowa’s Kaylin Nichole Upah, explains that continuing-gen students have more cultural capital—that is, “the use of culture as a resource, and it gives people an edge as it is passed down through each generation.” Continuing-gen students have help from their parent(s) who succeeded in college. This allows them to perform better in classes and achieve a high grade point average. [3]

Interestingly, the same study claims that, despite the differences between first-gen and continuing-gen students, campus involvement is important for both because “it often correlates with higher levels of academic persistence and success, and students can establish a group identity on campus and feel connected.” [3]

Whether students are first-gen or continuing-gen, events like First Gen Week are vital to ensure the diverse communication, engagement and friendly relationships between all of UMass Boston’s community.


[1] https://www.warnock.senate.gov/newsroom/press-releases/senators-reverend-warnock-marshall-introduce-bipartisan-resolution-celebrating-first-generation-college-students/
[2] https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/eligibility/requirements/non-us-citizens
[3] https://scholarworks.uni.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1259&context=hpt

About the Contributor
Colin Tsuboi, Photographer