Four Ways for First Gen Students to Connect at UML

Did you know that over 40% of UML students are First Gen? A first generation or “first gen” student is defined as someone who is the first in their family to attend college and ultimately receive a college degree. The experience of being a first-generation college student is unique, and many students report feeling as though they are navigating the college experience alone. College campuses can be confusing, and for someone new to the environment, the system can feel complex and overwhelming.

For those reasons and many more, it’s important to recognize and celebrate the First Gen experience. Kimberly Mejia Lopez, a senior Business student says that “being first gen is about rising above adversity and fighting imposter syndrome when questioning your belonging on campus” and credits her success at UML to getting involved in RHSA and the Professional Co-op Program.

UML was one of many universities nationwide that celebrated First Gen Week last week. The week’s events included tabling on First Gen Day, November 8th, and events hosted by the individual colleges on campus to celebrate the achievements of First Gen students, faculty, staff, and alums. As for us here at UML, in addition to celebrating First Gen week, we like to provide organizations and opportunities throughout the academic semester for our first gen students.

Here are some opportunities for First Gen students at UML:

  1. Find other First Gen students to connect with! it’s important for First Gen Students to identify as a member of this group and get connected with other First Gen students. Networking with other students who have a shared experience can be empowering and supportive. There are also programs in place to encourage First Gen students to connect with one another and take advantage of professional growth opportunities. This is a great way to start building a professional network.
  2. Stop by the River Hawk Scholars Association Office (RHSA), located on the third floor of the O’Leary Library on South Campus. This space is open to all First Gen students seeking a quiet place to study, meet up with friends or connect with an advisor.
  3. Join Alpha Alpha Alpha, if you meet the eligibility requirements. This is the First Gen Honors Society and undergraduate and graduate students are inducted annually. This is another opportunity for students to get connected on campus, join the organization, and celebrate academic and personal achievements.
  4. Save the Date for the First Gen Student Conference @UML on Friday, March 15th 

If you have any questions about First Gen Student Involvement opportunities, contact the RHSA office at

By Melissa Welch
Melissa Welch Associate Director, Cooperative Educaton