RWU to have its inaugural First Generation Day Celebration


Are you a first-generation college student? Do you know someone who is a first-generation college student? Then Roger Williams University has a celebration for you!

The university will have its first inaugural First-Generation Day Celebration Thursday, Nov. 4.

“First Generation Day is a national celebration the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) is heavily involved in helping colleges and universities across the country celebrate students who are first in their families to earn a degree,” said Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Stephanie Akunvabey.

“We [RWU] are celebrating and highlighting the experiences of first-generation faculty, staff, students, and alumni that are all part of our community,” she said.

Akunvabey said she is a first-generation student and she came up with the idea for the university to celebrate the holiday.

“As a first-generation student myself, my own experiences made me really care about first-generation students and I recognize that for first-generation students it can be a scary experience,” said Akunvabey. “You’re stepping into an unknown in so many different ways.”

“When I found out that Roger Williams had approximately 20% of the undergraduate population identify as first-generation, it felt like the right thing to do to create visibility around the experiences of this particular student population,” Akunvabey said.

Three panels will take place over the course of the day with one each for students, alumni and faculty and staff to share their experiences as first-generation students. The panels begin with the kickoff event, the student panel at noon.

First Gen pins and stickers can be picked up at various locations from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

IT Support Operations Manager Samantha Marshall who will speak about her experiences as a first-generation student on the faculty and staff panel said she thought the celebration was a good opportunity.

“I feel it’s a really good opportunity to share our stories. A lot of us come from different backgrounds so it gives us the opportunity to share and connect,” said Marshall. “I am glad the university is giving us this time to meet. I think it’ll really help students that they need as they go forward because there’s a lot of opportunities and we just have to be willing to take the chance to seek them.”

Along with the panels, three different events offering support services for first-generation students will be happening during the celebration. These include Career Preparation for Hawks, at 1 p.m. hosted by the Center for Career and Professional Development (CCPD), First-Gen Resources with Center for Student Academic Success (CSAS) at 2 p.m. and First-Gen & Counseling also at 2 p.m.

Akunvabey said she felt excited for the First-Gen Day Community Photo on the Quad.

“Now, the four o’clock photo event I think will be absolutely grand,” said Akunvabey. “It’s fun and a great kickoff to our close, which will be the President’s reception in [Global Heritage Hall] (GHH) Atrium.

The President’s reception will run from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday night from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Akunvabey said an event will be held for commuter and graduate students at the University College in Providence. Akunvabey said she picked Wednesday because Wednesdays are when the Providence campus has the most traffic from their students.

Akunvabey said the holiday is not just for first-generation students, but other students who know first-generation students they can support.

“I really, really hope that people see it as a campus-wide celebration and they come out and participate,” said Akunvabey. “If you’re a first-generation student, this day is for you. If you’re not a first-generation student, then your job is to be a cheerleader that day. A cheerleader, a supporter. Just come out and be engaged.”