First-generation students at the University of California

September 22, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs

So 20 years ago when I was an undergrad
we didn’t we didn’t have a name for the experience of being first in the family
to go to university. I started at community college but university was a
real culture shock it was incredibly stimulating and very
very lonely at the same time. So I had a rough first semester like almost every
first-generation student that I’ve met. There’s something special about being
first that if you leverage it, sets you up uniquely for success and so we’re
holding up faculty as a model to students to say we want you to be proud
of being first in the family that means that you are driven you’re ambitious
you’re probably more resilient because you got here. It’s really
highlighting the things about being first generation that are strengths and
by holding up faculty as models to those students we are emphasizing that we
believe you’re bringing strengths. You may have some areas where you need your
roadmap and that’s why we’re here, right? But we want to focus on the idea that
this is exciting. That you make our University of a better place. Now it’s a
UC system-wide initiative that focuses on raising awareness of both the high
first-generation population amongst our student body but also about raising
awareness of our faculty who were first in the family. All 10 UC campuses have
united in a system-wide effort to connect first-generation college
students with first-generation faculty members who have walked in their shoes.
Close to 900 faculty members have identified themselves as
first-generation and stepped forward to participate in this mentorship effort. 42
percent of our undergraduates come from families where neither parent went to
college and within six years of graduating they’re making more than
their total family income when they enrolled at UC. Anyone who has been the
first to do something knows it can be tough and it carries extra challenges. We
want to be sure these students know they are not alone and that there is support
available like mentorship and academic and financial advising to help them
succeed. Many of our faculty staff alumni and leadership had
strength and drive to push past barriers and blazed a trail for others. We
celebrate them along with all current and future first-gen students.