First-Generation Week: Celebrating progress and perseverance in first-generation students

By: 

IUPUI and the Division of Undergraduate Education are gearing up for First-Generation Week, a time dedicated to celebrating IUPUI’s first-generation students, taking place November 2–7.

Through various events and activities, First-Generation Week will recognize students who are the first in their families to go to college. Due to the success of last year’s inaugural First-Generation Day, IUPUI decided to extend this year’s celebration to a week.  

Events

A few of the events hosted by the Division of Undergraduate Education to celebrate the week include:

  • Button Making with Academic and Career Development
  • Roundtable Talks with Sophomore Experience Programs
  • Donut Day with the Institute for Engaged Learning
  • Professional Headshots with the Office of Student Employment
  • Study Abroad with the Office of International Affairs
  • Career Connection Night with the Diversity Enrichment and Achievement Program
  • The Second Annual Balloon Release with Upward Bound

The week will honor students like Isabel Zepeda, a medical humanities and health sciences major and a physiology mentor for the Bepko Learning Center. Like many first-generation students, Zepeda overcame challenges to get to IUPUI. While her parents encouraged her to pursue higher education, preparing for college and applying to universities were experiences she had to learn to navigate on her own.

“I didn't realize until coming here that so many people's parents have higher educations,” Zepeda said. “I didn't realize how much it did set me back until coming here and navigating it all.”

Now in her third year at IUPUI with plans to pursue a Ph.D. in health communication, Zepeda is proud of her identity as a first-generation student and grateful for the support she has found in faculty and from the many on-campus resources.

“I think First-Generation Week is important just because it gives us a sense of recognition,” she said. “This is a diverse campus. IUPUI has a lot of resources, and they recognize that these students need more resources.”

IUPUI aims to make the college transition a smooth process for first-generation students by providing various resources such as orientation services, peer mentoring, and career support. These resources also increase student retention and help connect students to the opportunities that are best for them.

I think First-Generation Week is important because it gives us a sense of recognition.

Isabel Zepeda, First-Generation Student

First-generation students are a valued part of the IUPUI community, making up nearly 30 percent of the student population. They often face significant obstacles in accessing college education, succeeding academically once they get to college, and completing a degree.

Overcoming these obstacles requires resilience. Derek Savick, a former first-generation student and current student employment consultant for the Office of Student Employment, is a living example of that resilience. The challenges he faced during his own time as a first-generation student have helped him understand the experiences of those he works with on a daily basis.

"After finishing my master's in student affairs, I wanted to be in a role that was really helping students build a capacity for success and break past some of the barriers that typically do exist when you first enter college," he said.

Savick sees First-Generation Week as a sign of IUPUI's commitment to creating a positive experience for students from all backgrounds. "When I first went into my field, I was passionate about and continue to be passionate about first-generation experiences, but I think this tackles it from a lens of making it ingrained in the fabric of the institution," he said.

First-Generation Week will culminate with a First-Generation Day celebration on Thursday, November 7, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Campus Center TV Lounge.

Visit the First-Generation Week website to see a full list of the week’s events and to learn about 10 first-generation students’ experiences by checking out the latest story on JagNews.

For more information, contact the Division of Undergraduate Education Office of Communications at duecomm@iupui.edu.