Over 200 students gathered in the Tutor Campus Center Ballroom this weekend to learn and engage around issues, practices and possible resources concerning this population at the First-Generation College Student Summit: Path to Success.
This two-day event hosted college students from various university campuses including Loyola Marymount University, Stanford University, San Diego State University and University of California, Irvine.
Of the undergraduate population at USC, 15 percent are first-generation college students. Because first-generation students often feel unprepared for the obstacles that college brings and cannot turn to their families for advice and counseling on how to maneuver such a complex environment. For this reason, the Office for Diversity and Strategic Initiative decided to start the conference.
Katrina Zimmermann, a USC alumna, has worked in the office for the past few years. She attended the first conference in 2016 and commented on its continued success.
“We actually received more registrations than we were expecting,” Zimmerman said. “We realized how much of an interest and need there is for first-generation college students to build a community and to reach out to that network and understand what resources are there for them, and to also recognize that they can pridefully stand up and say, ‘I’m a first-generation college student.”
Last year, the Office for Diversity and Strategic Initiative hosted the first First-Generation College Student Summit. It was only a one-day conference, but the positive feedback propelled the Office to expand the length of the event as well as the sessions it included, according to Zimmermann.
The goal of the conference is to emphasize to students that their accomplishments and resources to go even further.
“We want them to understand and recognize everything there is to be proud of and how far they were able to come and achieve their acceptance into college.” Zimmermann said.
Savannah Robinson, a sophomore studying journalism, works in the Office for Diversity and Strategic Initiative with Zimmermann.
“The Office is incredible because it not only lets students at USC know what resources they have, and what’s accessible to them, but also is very encouraging,” Robinson said.
Many of the students who are the first generation within their families to attend college come from difficult backgrounds and have had to work extremely hard for their success and accomplishments.
“A lot of the students come from immigrant family backgrounds where they’ve had to overcome crazy obstacles and have made it into prestigious positions and places in their lives.” Robinson said.
Felicitas Reyes is a senior majoring in American studies and ethnicity. She commented on the improvement and inclusiveness that the Office has continued to offer to students.
“I’ve worked for the Office for Diversity and Strategic Initiatives for the past three years and because of that I’ve been able to really see the inclusive programming for first generation college students on campus,” Reyes said.
There are now even more resources for first generation students.
“Within the past few years we’ve had a lot of new activities for not only the students but also their parents.” Reyes said.
The Office also continues to inspire and motivate the students. The University encourages the students and lets them know that any resources they need are available to them.
“It’s really great that USC does this because it inspires and lets students know that the campus is there for them,” Robinson said.
Aya Almasi, a junior and first geneartion student attending the conference, believed she had gained much insight from everything the event had to offer.
According to Almasi, the Office was very helpful in informing first-generation students of their resources and options.
“It’s really comforting and motivational to be surrounded by people who know the struggle and have learned different ways to navigate it. Being able to pool that information is extremely beneficial, especially for freshmen and transfer students,” Almasi said.