Marquette celebrates first-generation college students


Photo by Isabel Bonebrake

First-gen students picked up care packages from the AMU.

First-Generation Students’ Week celebrates those who distinguish themselves as the first person in their family to attend college. 

National First-Generation College Celebration occurs Nov. 8 to honor the anniversary of the signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965. HEA was implemented to help “level the playing field” that was weighed against Americans from minority and low-income backgrounds. HEA also created federal grants, loan programs to help students finance their education, and invested in institutions of higher education. 

At Marquette, the Center of Engagement and Inclusion hosted various events the week of Nov. 2-6 in honor of MU faculty, students and staff that identify as the first person in their families to go to college.

Center for the Engagement and Inclusion states that approximately 22% of the undergraduate population at Marquette are first-generation students. This is the second year Marquette has celebrated First-Generation week. 

The CEI hosted events such as storytelling, paint night, personal essays and made care packages for first-gen students to help them throughout their new journey and to celebrate being a first-gen student. 

Clara Dwyer, a staff member for the Center for the Engagement and Inclusion, has been extremely involved in the process of making sure this week ran smoothly.

Dwyer said the purpose of Marquette’s First-Generation week is “to celebrate and recognize the achievements of our first gen students who are changing the trajectories of their lives and for many of them, the trajectory of their family’s life.” 

A Student organization, F1RST, is led by first-generation students which provides opportunities for other first-generation students to get together to discuss their similar identity. This allows first-generation students to come together and help each other navigate college. 

F1RST celebrates the excitement of being a first-generation student, and creates a community of other first-gen students to help each other not only through college, but through life as well. They also host events every first-gen student at Marquette can be involved in to learn more about what they are going through and to meet others who are experiencing similar situations. On their Instagram, @Imfirstmu, they upload videos of first-generation students discussing their background being a first-gen and bits of advice and resources others can utilize. They also upload information and events that other first-generation students can be involved in.

As a result of First-Generation week here at Marquette, Dwyers hopes that all first-generation students feel welcome and be portrayed not by their challenges, but by their aspirations throughout university. 

“We know that our first-gen students are extremely resilient,”  Dwyer said. “They come with a strong foundation and will to graduate, however, we also want to ensure a full and fulfilling college experience that will offer opportunities to develop networks and other cultural capital with which to enter the work world. This is very much a part of the Jesuit educational experience in caring for and developing the whole person.”

 partnership with the faculty and staff across the Marquette campus . This website displays more information on how first-generation students can discover networks, information, and other first-generation students and staff. 

Ashley Renee, first-year and first-generation student in the College of Nursing understands the significance of First-Generation week, and believes it is extremely beneficial resource for every first-generation student at Marquette to take advantage of, “It’s really nice to be recognized for being a first-generation student, and it introduces me to other people in the same situation as me so I know I’m not alone throughout this process.” 

First-generation student Zoee Arreguin in the College of Communications believes that First-Generation week is extremely important to support students like her, “First-Gen week is important to me because is I think it’s important to acknowledge the setbacks that students like myself face in college. It’s a very unique experience, so it’s nice to be supported. They [Marquette] do a good job of acknowledging the challenges, yet not making this group of students feel marginalized or different. It feels like a celebration.”

Marquette University ultimately celebrates First-Generation week as a way to help first-generation students through unknown territory by providing them with organizations, events, and resources to ensure their success.

This story was written by Julia Abuzzahab. She can be reached at