National First-Generation Student Day at CSU

CSU’s Student Support Services celebrated first generation college students by hosting an event on the national day of student recognition.

Photo courtesy of CSU TRIO

TRIO and Student Support Services of Cleveland State University held a celebratory event for first generation university students in the student center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 8.

Many students at CSU, as well as most other universities, do not come from a background of traditional college-going families. A first generation student is anyone whose parents did not graduate with a college degree. The event, orchestrated by TRIO and SSS, helped recognize these students on the anniversary of the Higher Education Act of 1965.

Cullin Fish, assistant director of TRIO/SSS, gave his perspective on what the day meant for students, in hopes of continuing to house this affair in the upcoming years.

“Through our office and other campus departments, we wanted to bring students out and showcase some support resources available to them,” Fish said.

While speaking about the nature behind the event and the purpose of highlighting it for all of the campus community to be aware of, Fish gave some details about its background.

“We did sessions on networking, story telling and hosted a panel of speakers.” Fish continued, “Our whole goal is to create a first-gen community on campus, educate students about who first-gen students are, and most importantly how to overcome some of the challenges that these students may face.”

Each approach to keeping students engaged was unique in its own way and serviced every attendee.

“Formality wise, we had some breakout sessions,” Fish said. “Our first session of the day was a panel where we had some faculty members speak, including Amanda Lloyd from English and Dr. Ronnie Dunn from Urban Studies, in addition to a couple of student speakers.”

The speakers in the first session talked about their individual experiences as first generation students and how they shaped who they are as professionals.

“Our story telling session gave individuals a chance to reflect on their lives in college,” Fish explained. “What motivated you to come to college? Who are you here for? And why you remain even when things get hard?”

The networking session was driven by Director of Career Development and Exploration, Brittany Wampler. She discussed goal setting, connecting and the importance of being able to advocate for self in building a network.

Financial literacy discussions and an open mic session were presented at the tail-end of the event.

Fish offered some numbers correlating to the amount of traffic that the event pulled in to the Student Center Atrium throughout the day.

“We invited all first-get students on campus and so far today we’ve had probably 250-300 students filter in and out, which we’re really excited about.”

TRIO currently serves 515 students on campus who identify either as first generation or low-income students. Through collaborative efforts and offices across campus, funding granted the event an opportunity to run.