Graduation at the University of Iowa

There are many ways to be “the first” during a college career, but first-generation students are, by definition, “first” from the day they set foot on campus: They are the first in their families to attend college, a status that can present them with a host of particular challenges.


To help address some of these challenges and increase awareness of first-generation students and their trailblazing experiences navigating college, the University of Iowa Student Government is presenting the inaugural “I’m the First” summit on Saturday April 7, 2018, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm, on the second floor Ballroom of the IMU. The event will highlight the first gen experience and provide resources to help the students and their instructors support their success at Iowa.


The day also will serve as a space for networking, mentorship, and connection for first-generation undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni.


Carolyn Colvin, Associate Professor in the College of Education believes it is important for instructors to build relationships with first-generation students to help them succeed in college.


“It has been my experience that learning more about the first gen student experience provides pathways for faculty members to better understand how best to support those students,” she says.


Colvin adds that by mentoring a first-generation student, faculty and staff members and even fellow students, can better understand and appreciate the first gen experience as well as college itself.


During the Summit, Colvin will lead the breakout session, “Mentoring for First Gen Students: Best Practices and Lessons Learned.” She will share her many years of experience leading the West Liberty Enrichment Program, which has welcomed first generation college students since 2007. The program was designed to assist students as they learn to navigate college life; build networks with faculty, staff, and other students; create awareness of University resources; and develop personal agency as students.


The program also encourages the West Liberty students to continue nurturing the community they had built during their high school years. The program’s ultimate goal is to help participating students to graduate from the University of Iowa.


Colvin notes that first-generation students are entering college and university campuses at a rate higher than their peers.  


“They make the choice to come to Iowa,” she says, “so it is our obligation to become more informed about them.”


The First Generation Summit will take place on Saturday April 7, 2018, 10:00 am – 4:30 pm, on the second floor Ballroom of the IMU. Registration is required.