First Year Experience, a division of the University of Michigan’s Office of Student Life, hosted “First Gen? First Year? Questions and Community” Monday, an event intended to help first-generation students navigate their freshman years, in Couzens Multipurpose Room.
Two of the student coordinators, LSA junior Khanh Le and LSA sophomore Mariah Benford, voiced their opinions on what this event meant for first-generation students.
“There are definitely specific problems that first-generation students have to go through and I think it’s for that,” Le said. “First-gen students make up a small population of overall students here. Problems that first-gen students face can be overshadowed or ignored by bigger priorities.”
According to a 2016 campus climate survey, first-generation students constitute 8 percent of the student body. First-gen students in the past have said the coupling of lack of parental guidance and, typically, a low-income status has made the transition to higher education difficult. Benford said she “appreciated the fact that there’s a space for first-gen students,” especially through events such as Monday’s
In her opening remarks, Allie Harte, the associate director of FYE, said as the event was part of the first annual First Gen Week at the University, FYE wanted to help first-year students on campus in their first months at the University.
“First Year Experience really wanted to partner and be a part of that and provide resources and a place and space for community for first year, first-gen students specifically,” Harte said.
Several tables were set up, each focused on a different issue, and students had the opportunity to rotate to whichever table suited their concerns. One of the tables discussed housing, specifically finances and the pros and cons of different types of housing. LSA sophomore Alexandria Bly, a student coordinator for FYE, said the pressure of searching for housing was of particular concern for first-generation students.
“Housing next year is a big topic on campus,” Bly said. “This is probably one of the best programs we’ve had so far. Students are worried about a lot of things like ‘How am I going to get involved?’ but it’s not like, ‘If I’m not involved, I’m going to be homeless.’”
LSA freshman Richard Demeter said the event made him feel welcome at the University.
“I was a little worried about coming to a big university and not knowing what to expect,” Demeter said.
Nursing freshman Kaylee Johnson was able to benefit from other resources available.
“I learned about a new course I could take and about community service,” Johnson said. “They should definitely do it again in the future.”