1st Gen Summit Sessions

Morning Session – 11:00am – 12:15pm

“The poor kids’ table”: The Challenges and Benefits of Organizing Around a Stigmatized Identity in Flux
Room 207

In this session Debbie will share her findings from the interview data she collected from members of the Skidmore group CLASS (Class Action for Skidmore Students) and Aneta will be sharing her own personal experiences of what it has been like to start and run a group for first-generation and low-income students on campus.


Debbie Warnock, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Louisville
Aneta Molenda, Skidmore ’14

Debbie and Aneta worked together to start a group for low-income, first-generation, and/or working-class students at Skidmore College. Aneta has been the leader of this group since the Fall of 2011. Debbie conducted interviews with 16 students affiliated with the group and is writing a series of papers about the group using these data.

A Work in Progress: The Williams First Generation Student Advisory Board
Room 209
The Williams College First Generation Initiatives is comprised of various programs and events. One of the critical aspects of this endeavor is having a space for first generation students to be directly involved and have their voices heard. Their involvement is key in assisting in creating a supportive and engaging campus environment that they need in order to succeed at the college. In the Fall of 2013 the inaugural First Generation Student Advisory Board was launched at Williams College. The panel includes representatives of the advisory board and the dean of first generation initiatives that serves as the advisor. There will be a discussion of the process of creating the board and the upcoming plans of the advisory board in their first year of existence.

Dr. Rosanna Reyes, Associate Dean & Dean of First Generation Initiatives
Brandon Mancilla, Member of the Williams First Generation Student Advisory Board
Jin Sun, Member of the Williams First Generation Student Advisory Board

We See You: How Official Recognition Shapes the First-Generation Experience
Porter Lounge
The move to officially acknowledge first-generation college students as a special population is a fairly recent one on the campuses of American colleges and universities. Through the experiences of a panel of current first-generation students and a faculty member who was a first-generation student, we will explore how that formal institutional acknowledgement has changed what it means to be a first-generation college student. We will address the benefits and potential pitfalls of formally categorizing students in this way. Our discussion will touch on issues of intersectionality, finding community, campus activism, stigma, and others. We will welcome participation from the audience throughout the panel discussion.

Five first-generation panelists will discuss issues relevant to contemporary and former first-generation college students. Michelle R. Jackson and Jess Montecalvo are both juniors at Smith College. From Greenfield, MA, Michelle is majoring in Biological Sciences. Jess, from Warwick, RI, is majoring in English and American Studies. Victoria Torres and Angelica Vargas are both first-year Smith College students. Angelica, from Pasadena, CA, plans to major in engineering. Victoria comes from Pittsfield, MA, and is planning to double major in Education and Child Psychology. Tina Wildhagen, a former first-generation college student, is a professor in the Sociology Department at Smith College.

First-Generation Students and Study Abroad
Room 302
One of the most popular responses to the question “what do you wish you did while you were in college?” is studying abroad. Though the popularity of studying abroad is increasing, it is still an afterthought for most students. This is especially true of first-generation students. First-generation students face unique challenges when it comes to being able to study abroad and rarely entertain the thought while they are in college. With colleges as well as the job market becoming more globalized, we need to look at the statistics and see where things can be improved for students. With the population of first-generation students increasing year by year, it is also important to discuss strategies that make international experiences accessible to these students. This session will discuss the current trends in international education as they relate to the first-generation student population along with discussing strategies that can increase study abroad participation for first-generation students. Audience participation will be looked for throughout the presentation, with discussions around personal experiences of studying abroad and strategies other have on increasing study abroad participation.

Benjamin Miele, Graduate Fellow in International Programs at Merrimack College
Ben is a graduate student at Merrimack College where he works in the Office of International Programs. He is a first generation student who studied abroad in Manchester, England and currently advises students studying abroad. He will be graduating in May with his master’s degree in Higher Education and hopes to work in international education post-graduation.

Empowering First Generation Students through Developmental Academic Advising:  A Presentation of the Student Transition & Engagement Program (STEP) and the Peer Mentor Component
Room 308
This session will discuss the efficacy of utilizing a holistic developmental advising model to support low-income and/or first generation students that includes one-on-one academic coaching, peer mentoring, and success workshops. Particular attention will be giving to the value of relationship building between first generation students and campus staff and faculty as well as first-generation peer mentors.


Megan Wigton, MA, MEd, is a transition support specialist at Salem State University under a DHE College Access Challenge Grant and founder of the Student Transition & Engagement Program (STEP).

 Alexandria Kluge is a third year first-generation student at Salem State University majoring in Environmental Biology with a Chemistry minor.

Audris Terrero is a second year first-generation student at Salem State University majoring in Business Administration with a Concentration in Accounting.

Diana Vasquez is a second year first-generation student at Salem State University majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Hospitality Management and a World Languages minor (Spanish/Italian).

 Afternoon Sessions 1:45pm – 3:00pm

The Economic Divide: How Attending an Affluent Institution Impacts the Lived Experiences for “High Need” Students
Room 207

The purpose of the panel will be to explore the student experience as “high need” students (from a financial aid standpoint)—including their insights and perspectives into the challenges they face confronting both the palpable and covert economic disparities that exist within the student body at an affluent institution. In addition, this session will also provide an opportunity for attendees to engage in candid dialogue with these students, exploring their lived experiences, and gaining further insight into how these students believe academic advisors may be able to create a more inclusive experience for similar students at their respective institutions. Lastly, this session will also provide an opportunity for attendees to engage in a larger discussion about the role of advisors in helping to promote persistence for students from low SES backgrounds, as often this form of inequity is infrequently the focus of institutional attention, even though recent studies have articulated quite clearly that higher education degree attainment for students from low SES backgrounds significantly lags behind the completion levels of their higher SES peers. However, it’s also important to note that factors such as race, gender, and/or ethnicity are inseparable features from class and economic factors; thus, individuals from low economic backgrounds are in fact also operating at the junction of numerous counts of oppression due to the “intersectionality” of possessing multiple forms of minoritized backgrounds.

Tufts University BLAST Scholars – These students are Tufts University “BLAST Scholars,” first generation college students (FGCS) and/or individuals who attended under resourced high schools, that were selected during the admissions process to participate in a summer bridge program entitled Bridge to Liberal Arts Success at Tufts (BLAST); the majority of these students also identify as students of color.

A Collaborative Approach to Working with First Generation Students at Williams
Room 209
Research shows that in order to ensure the success of first generation students, administrators must first identify and understand the issues that often affect them. In order to address these issues there is a need for cross-departmental conversations and collaborations. This panel will offer some insight as to the different ways that departments and offices at Williams College collaborate. The panel is comprised of staff members from various college departments and a first year first generation student that has been able to take advantage of the resources.

Dr. Rosanna Reyes, Associate Dean and Dean of First Generation Initiatives, Dean’s Office
Benjamin Lamb, Assistant Director for Student Involvement, Office of Student Life
Tim Carroll, Assistant Director of Financial Aid, Financial Aid Office
Marcela Peacock, Program Coordinator, The Davis Center
Wilmer Montesdeoca, First Year Student

Shifting from Negative Perceptions into a Community of Belonging
Porter Lounge
Join us for a discussion where we deconstruct isolating practices, rhetoric, and appearances. Through this workshop we will explore the experience of community as it relates to first-generation college students through interactive activities and discussions. Topics will include pressures related to social, academic, emotional, mental, personal aspects of college life.

Flora Chan, Amherst College Administrator
Timothy Gaura, Amherst ’15

The Intersection of Gender, Social Class, and Elite Higher Education
Room 302
As a professor, Jennifer O’Connor Duffy studies the experiences of first-generation students in elite colleges and how to help them achieve success. This session will include a personal story of her experience as a first generation college student at Amherst College from a working-class background and an exploration of her journey through academia to becoming a professor. Her personal journey has shaped her academic interest of studying the the intersections of gender, race and social class in elite post-secondary institutions. She will present the most cutting edge research in the field of first generation college students, as well as her own personal research on working-class women in elite education. The participants will have an interactive opportunity to discuss their biggest challenges, both inside and outside of the classroom that first generation students are confronted with on campuses and work in small groups to brainstorm ideas to overcome these barriers from an academic standpoint and a student affairs perspective. Links to Jennifer’s research and published articles will be shared with the group for further reading and discussion post-session.

As a first generation student, Dr. Jennifer O’Connor Duffy graduated magna cum laude from Amherst College. She then received her master’s and doctoral degree in higher education administration from Boston College where she studied gender and educational inequality. She was selected as the Boston College Lynch School of Education Graduate Student Commencement Speaker. She has taught undergraduate and graduate students in education, leadership, and gender studies at several institutions including Suffolk University, Northeastern University, Kaplan University, Walden University, and Anna Maria College. She currently serves as a dissertation chair at Northcentral University and mentors doctoral students.

Forming a First Generation Community on Campus
Room 308
As First Gens we know that forming a First Gen community is important, but how do we actually make that formally happen on a college campus? The Harvard College FIrst Generation Student Union will be discussing the steps they took to get their organization recognized and mobilized: listing the people they reached out to, how they went about publicizing, their first events, and overall how they gained recognition by the institution and the student body. Although it is not the model to follow, the purpose is to give those at other schools ideas of how to form a First Gen community on their own campuses.

Presented by the Harvard College First Generation Student Union

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