Oxford celebrates first-generation community with First-Gen Week

Daniel Christian •

First-Gen Week

First-generation students learned about opportunities on campus and connected with staff and faculty who share their experience.

This November, Oxford College and Emory University held a week-long celebration for students who are the first in their families to attend college. The festivities were part of “First-Gen Week,” which was held from November 8-12 in concert with the national First-Generation College Celebration on November 8.

First-generation students attended sessions that highlighted resources on campus as well as social gatherings that connected them with faculty and staff who share “first-gen” experience.

Indar Ramlal, President of student organization OxFirst, said his favorite part of the week was gathering with other first-generation students while tabling at the Student Center. The table included additional representatives from Residence Life, Jolley Residential Center, and Oxford Questbridge.

“It was a much-needed break from classes, and it let all of us experience a moment of bonding that we rarely get this late in the semester,” Ramlal said.

At the table, they distributed first-gen apparel, stickers, and postcards to students, who could also stop and make their own buttons.

Later in the week, faculty and staff held a mixer with students where they shared first-generation stories over desserts and hot drinks.

Claudia Zanjanchian, Senior Residence Life Coordinator, tabled with Ramlal as a staff representative. A one-time first-generation student herself, she emphasized the importance of passing on the help she received in school.

“The support I received as a first-generation college student is what inspired me to pursue a career in student affairs,” Zanjanchian said. “I love being able to celebrate the accomplishments and successes of first-generation students. At a school like Emory, where everyone is so great at what they do, it's worth recognizing the resilience and dedication that comes with being the first in your family, as well as the opportunity to change the trajectory of future generations.”

Other events on the Atlanta campus included one-on-one consultations with the Office of Financial Aid for FASFA advice, a panel hosted by the Goizueta BBA program (also available on Zoom), and a community dinner with food truck tacos.

First-generation Oxford student America Ruiz attended the “Kicking Off First-Gen” event with friends, and she left feeling supported by the community around her.

“Having representation within our administration, faculty, and staff has honestly been the best support I could ask for,” Ruiz said. “The professors who were once first-gen students are the best, as they are very open about their experience and willing to give advice. Sometimes, being a first-gen student makes me feel a bit unsure about my own future, but seeing so much representation has made me more hopeful.”

In recognition of its dedication to the success of first-generation students, Emory was recently admitted to the 2021-2022 cohort of First-Gen Forward. This designation recognizes colleges and universities leading the way in “improving experiences and advancing outcomes of first-generation college students.”

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