Celebrating First Generation to College Students

Contributor
School of Pharmacy

Mr. A and Ms. M knew as early as in their elementary school years that they were expected to attend and graduate from college. Their parents were both college graduates who afforded as many opportunities as possible to expose their children to college and university environments. As a family they would attend sports, College Day, and Open House events at the parents’ respective alma maters. These opportunities allowed the children to converse with faculty, staff, and students at these schools. Conversations about different colleges and universities, types of degrees offered by post-secondary institutions, majors, and specialty/professional academic trainings were normal dinnertime discussions in Mr. A and Ms. M’s home growing up.

On the contrary, there are thousands of high school students all across the U.S. who do not see attending college, let alone being a college graduate, as a possibility nor a viable options in their future.

The majority of such students are referred to as the First Generation to College (FG2C) students or simply first gens.

A First Generation to College student is a student whose parent(s) or guardian(s) did not have a Bachelor’s degree. Being cognizant of the difficulties that these academic trailblazers face at professional- or graduate-level academic world, the lack of preparation for the professional and social expectations they face, and limited (sometimes none) resources or support programs available to this demographic, FG2C at UCSF is more inclusive.

Thus, a First Generation to College student at UCSF is a student who is the first in their family to go to college, graduate or professional school.

FG2C students at UCSF come from diverse race, ethnicity, family structures (single parent family, two parent family, and others), and religious affiliations among others. In spite of these differences, FG2C students may share common traits such as growing up in similar socio-economic background and having to overcome insurmountable obstacles to make it to college.

Unfortunately, most of these obstacles do not disappear when a first gen continues their pioneering academic endeavors at such a great and world-renowned institution as the University of California, San Francisco.

This is one of the major reasons that the former director of First Generation Support Services, Dr. Neesha Patel, started a small monthly discussion group in 2008 that later metamorphosed into the First Generation College Student Initiative.

This initiative was a part of Student Academic Affairs’ efforts under UCSF’s strategic plan to attract and support the most talented and diverse trainees in the health sciences at the time.

Through her professional experiences working with students as well as personal experiences, the UCSF’s first gens’ visionary leader, Dr. Patel, who was a staff psychologist for Student Health Services at the time recognized the need for unique support that would allow FG2C students to thrive and make it through their respective programs at UCSF successfully.

“Financial, educational, emotional and professional support are crucial to the success of any student – but these are not a given for first-generation college students who are pioneers in the journey through higher education,” says Neesha Patel, PhD.

In the furtherance of the First Generation College Student Initiative, the First Generation Support Services and First Generation to College registered campus organization (FG2C RCO) were subsequently founded with the goal of “Fostering supportive community for students who are of the first generation in their family to graduate from college.

FG2C RCO is an inter-professional student group founded in the 2014-2105 academic year in collaboration with Dr. Patel and Ms. JoAnn Lopez of the First Generation Support Services to further provide visibility, mentoring, support, workshops, advocacy, and community to student members of the first gen community.

Through visibility, these unique pioneers who are often invisible in many institutions are empowered to stand up and make their presence known at our institution rather than fall prey to the imposter syndrome.

Mentoring connects current FG2C students with first gen UCSF faculty, residents, postdocs, and alumni to develop mentoring relationships. Members of the FG2C RCO in turn act as ambassadors, guides, and recruiters for prospective first-generation students through outreach endeavors.

On a different but important note, the FG2C RCO members cherish the unwavering support of the FG2C community at UCSF, which is comprised of UCSF executive leadership team members, vice provost, deans, associate deans, faculty, staff, alumni, residents, hospitalists, fellows, interns, and post-docs in addition to currently enrolled students.

As the saying goes, once a first gen always a first gen.

Join our community- the FG2C community at UCSF, if you happen to fall into any of the aforementioned categories that qualify you as a first gen or you are just curious to find out more about our community.

Please join us for our upcoming Annual Community Reception on, Thursday, April 14, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Millberry Union Event & Meeting Center, with RSVP.

Furthermore, all members of the class of 2016 who are FG2C students are invited to attend our inaugural graduation celebration event on, Thursday, April 28, from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Millberry Union Event & Meeting Center 5 p.m. in acknowledgment of their respective accomplishments.