First-Generation event recognized with national award


The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) presented the 2023 NACE/Chevron award to IUPUI for the First-Generation Career Connections Night. The award-winning event, planned and hosted by the First-Generation Committee, was held at the Indianapolis Zoo on November 10, 2022.

The NACE/Chevron Award recognizes outstanding achievement for innovative programs in the college career services field. Kevin Lema, assistant program director of undergraduate career services at the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing, and Engineering, was the committee’s co-chair at the time of the event. Lema helped plan the event alongside fellow committee members Karley Clayton and Brian Benedict.

"We are incredibly honored to accept the prestigious NACE/Chevron Award for our collective efforts in organizing the First-Generation Career Connection Night as part of the First-Generation Student Success Campaign,” Lema said. “This award recognizes the collaborative spirit and commitment of all those involved in supporting and empowering first-generation students in their career readiness journey."

First-generation college students face unique challenges in navigating their college journey and career readiness, especially when it comes to finding resources. Offering events like the Career Connections Night gives first-generation students access to more networking opportunities, resources, and support tailored to their experiences and leads to 81.2% of first-generation students having a career related to their major.

Nearly 30% of IUPUI undergraduate students are first-generation college students, and...

88.4%remain in Indiana after graduation

52.2%have no debt to pay off upon graduation

54.7%completed an internship  

*According to the 2022 First Destination Survey

The Career Connections Night was part of a wider scale-up of first-generation initiatives last year made possible through additional grant funding. Although 2023 might see fewer separate events, new co-chairs plan to keep up the momentum and focus on expanding efforts across campus.

Ernest Evans, director of Upward Bound, is one of the co-chairs of the First-Generation Committee for the upcoming academic year. Evans is a first-generation student who completed his undergraduate degree at IUPUI. He now hopes to give back to the faculty and staff who showed him support while supporting first-generation students himself. Evans spoke to future initiatives that the committee plans to address.

"We are looking to continue celebrating our first-gen students,” Evans said. “We are also going to be looking for ways to get the students more involved by looking into student organizations and honor societies that center the experiences of first-generation students."

Emily Hunnicutt, assistant director of 21st Century Scholars, is the other current committee co-chair. She is also a first-generation student involved with first-generation initiatives since they began on IUPUI’s campus in 2018. Faculty and staff across campus may take part in such initiatives by joining the First-Generation Committee.

"It's a super great opportunity to connect with people outside of your units that you're maybe not used to collaborating with,” Hunnicut said. “A lot of first-gen graduates are serving on the committee because they're now in a professional role. It's just really cool to see that first-gen status and the ability to give back."

The 2023 First-Generation Celebration will be held on November 7 from 11 a.m.–1 p.m. in Campus Center 450. Faculty and staff interested in serving on the committee or volunteering at first-gen events can email

For more information, contact the Division of Undergraduate Education Office of Communications at