UAAP Launches First Generation Project

Miri Skolnik, Assistant Dean, Student Support Services, UAAP

MIT is proud of its commitment to First Generation students. First Generation students, or those whose parents do not have college degrees, comprise 16% of the MIT student body. Until now, though, there has been no public forum in which to address their needs, shared experiences, and unique challenges. During the Spring 2011 semester, this segment of the MIT student population was given a voice and a much needed sense of community. Earlier this year, the First Generation Project was launched, sponsored by the UAAP/Student Support Services. Two dinners were held, one on February 17th and one on March 31st, where First Generation students, faculty, and administrators came together to share their powerful life stories of overcoming the odds.

Several things were learned at these events. Among these lessons is the fact that First Generation students often face more pronounced financial hardships and concerns about providing for their family’s well-being. They share the additional challenge of navigating the college system on their own, without the specific knowledge that comes from parents who are college graduates. These students also reported experiencing a sense of isolation, from their peers as well as from their families, who do not share their college experiences.

The resounding consensus from these events was that an ongoing, Institute-supported program is needed to address the concerns of this population. A student advisory board was formed, and will take the lead in formally developing a sustainable program at MIT to support our First Generation students. The project will prioritize student-to-student peer support, enabling First Generation students to serve as a valuable resource for one another.