Photo by Makenna Verdon
“I decided to become a first-gen student because my mom had always dreamed of me walking across the stage with my college diploma,” said Dani Stevens, a first-generation student majoring in early childhood education with an endorsement in special education. Stevens will be graduating in the spring of 2024.
National First-Generation Day was on November 8th. This holiday celebrated the fortitude and determination that first-generation students have working to obtain their college degrees. St. Ambrose’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (D.E.I.) office commemorated this day by highlighting success stories of SAU faculty, staff and students that are first-generation students. The D.E.I. office also handed out shirts, hosted giveaways and raffles, and had an event social for students, staff, and faculty members.
Fritz Dieudonné, Coordinator of Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion said, “This day helped us in building community among our (first-generation) students, faculty, and staff.”
National First-Generation Day is important for the SAU community because first-generation students are a large portion of the campus population.
Dieudonné said, “SAU has a fairly large number of first-gen students. On average, approximately 20% of first year students are first-gen, and approximately 50% of our transfers and non-traditional students are first-gen.”
Matthew David, a first-generation student majoring in Human Resources Management reflected on why he chose to go to St. Ambrose University.
David said, “First, the institutional financial aid is unparalleled compared to the other schools I applied to. Second, I’m able to participate in my many diverse interests on campus, be a part of the choral program and the lacrosse team, and have a work study job on campus in addition to my two jobs off campus. I don’t believe there are many other schools that would afford me the same freedoms.”
Dean Christopher Waugh, Vice President for Student Engagement and Dean of Students reflected on why he chose the college path and becoming a first-generation student.
He expressed, “Being a first-gen student reinforces the promise of higher education. It means that an academically-average student from a small farm town can get the skills, network, and experiences needed to know and treasure Christ and use his gifts to make a contribution to God’s kingdom here on Earth. Higher education is one example of the wonderful promise of the United States: the American dream.”
Stevens added how important it is for her to be a first-generation college student. “Being a First-gen student is a big thing for me. In a way, I am breaking the tradition of not going to college.”
David agreed on how important it is to be a first-generation student, “I’m very proud of being a first-gen student. I’m lucky enough to be able to say I earned a college degree in a discipline I enjoy. I would say it’s very important to me because I’m a big believer that your parent’s lives and successes are completely unrelated to who you are as a person.”
Dean Waugh recognized the meaning of being a first-generation student, “That said, for so many students and families today, I think the term reinforces the promise of education and reflects how much college campuses value and celebrate students from every background.”