On Monday, Nov. 7, the New Student Programs and Orientation team at UMass Boston kicked off celebration week in honor of the university’s first-generation students, staff and alumni. While the National First-Generation College Student Day was Tuesday, Nov. 8, UMass Boston held an entire week full of events and activities.

The first-generation celebration day occurred on Nov. 8, and there was no shortage of food and activities for students and staff to enjoy. Attendees of the event enjoyed music and free refreshments, including hot chocolate, cookies and pretzels. A free custom coffee mug station printed first-generation themed images for students to enjoy, and there was a photomosaic created entirely by pictures of UMass Boston’s first-generation students. The Tri-Alpha First Generation Honors Society was also in attendance on Tuesday, handing out information about the organization and raffle tickets for an iPad giveaway.

Vice Chancellor Karen Ferrer-Muñiz attended the first two first-generation events that took place on the Campus Center terrace and gave a speech at each event. Since Nov. 8 was the official day for first-generation college students, Vice Chancellor Ferrer-Muñiz’s Tuesday speech echoed her personal story as a first-get student. Ferrer-Muñiz stated that 62 percent of UMass Boston’s student body is first-generation, and that she was a first-generation college student herself. Ferrer-Muñiz also admitted to helping her mother through college while she was working toward her Master’s degree. “When I went to college, and I was in my master’s program, she actually went to college with me! It’s not easy going to college with your mother,” said Ferrer-Muñiz.

Several students expressed their pride and excitement about being first-generation students at UMass Boston They also shared their feelings about the accommodations the university has offered them during such a significant change. Second-year undergraduate student, Annika Dey, is a first-generation student from India who is currently studying biology. Dey responded with an inspiring message when asked why being a first-generation student is important to her. “Once students go out, there are other kids that want to do the same, and you become an inspiration to them,” Dey said.

Vedant, another first-generation student from India, is working on receiving his second Master’s degree. This is an impressive feat in and of itself, especially considering Vedant is studying and living in a completely new country. When asked what motivated him to receive a higher education, Vedant answered: “Needing to get my second Master’s degree is what inspired me. I received my first Master’s degree in India, and I needed to learn more in order to work where I wanted to work.”

Students were also asked if they felt that UMass Boston had done enough to accommodate them during their pursuit of higher education. First-semester graduate student, Mehua, who is from outside of Mumbai, stated she’d had a very positive experience at the university thus far. “Everybody blends, and the Ph.D candidates are always offering help to other students. The diversity helped make the transition easier,” Mehua stated.

The Tri-Alpha First Generation Honors Society is an important resource that first-generation students can utilize during their college transition. Tri-Alpha is a nationwide organization, and 230 UMass Boston students were initiated into the society as of last spring. To join Tri-Alpha, undergraduate students must maintain a minimum 3.2 GPA and graduate students must maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA. Students must also qualify as first-generation students under UMass Boston’s definition, which is a student seeking to obtain a four-year degree in the United States and is the first in their family to do so.

Tri-Alpha is designed to help first-generation students navigate the way of college life and utilize their resources when they need assistance. The Student Support Services was highly recommended by the society, as the program assists first-generation, low-income and disabled students throughout their college career. Tri-Alpha also stated that they are always here to help first-generation students, and students are more than welcome to reach out if they need any assistance.

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