A celebration of first-generation Mavericks

At “I Am First” panel, UTA students discuss being first in their families to attend college

Friday, Nov 19, 2021 • Devynn Case : Contact

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First-generation Mavericks listened and learned from one another at a panel discussion and social event this week that celebrated students who are the first in their families to attend college.

A’Nyria Harper, a junior majoring in philosophy and African American studies at The University of Texas at Arlington, said events like the panel are great for meeting other Mavericks going through similar experiences.

“We’re all worried about grades or money or making sure our cars work,” said Harper. “It’s good for all of us first-gen students to see each other and to get to know each other. It’s reassuring that we can talk about how all of us are going through similar things.”

The divisions of Student Success, Student Affairs and Enrollment Management collaborate in planning several first-generation student initiatives throughout the academic year. This most recent panel, called “I Am First,” featured first-generation students, faculty and staff sharing insights and personal stories.

“At UT Arlington, we value students who are first in their families to attend college, and we want them to know we have a support system in place for them,” said Lisa Nagy, UTA vice president for student affairs, who also was a first-generation student. “We want first-generation students to see others like them succeeding and growing at UTA and to feel empowered to be first-gen.”

Kathryn Cruz, who is pursuing a master’s in chemistry, said she has found UTA students and faculty to be relatable and helpful in addressing her concerns.

“Talking to professors and other students I can relate to—such as other women in science and specifically women of color in science—it lets me see that if they can do it, then I can do it,” she said.

UTA’s Academic Success Center provides a variety of resources and programs designed to help students develop academic skills, transition to the campus and better understand concepts and information related to their courses.  Resources include:

In addition, all first-year Mavericks are required to take new student seminar courses aimed at supporting their transition into the University and conveying academic success strategies, career and major exploration and experiential learning opportunities. Under a grant from the University of Texas System, some of the course sections have specific curriculum for first-gen students. Students can self-identify for admission into sections that focus on service learning, career development with the Lockheed Martin Career Development Center and transferable skills to succeed in University course work and beyond after graduation.

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Ariana Hernandez, who’s studying visual communication design and advertising, said she was concerned she wouldn’t be able to figure out how to navigate college life. But the support and resources UTA offers first-generation students has helped make her journey smoother.

“It’s been hard to overcome the feeling that you’re not meant to be in college,” she said. “But I’ve learned that everyone has their own voice and their own story.”

The Office of Transition Programs and Services helps students find a sense of belonging, both in the classroom and on campus.

“We aspire to help students achieve academic goals, social connections and personal development throughout their college journey,” said Tasha Talton, director of the Office Transition Programs and Services. “In collaboration with various divisions across campus, we aim to incorporate high-impact first-gen programs and events; increase the visibility of first-gen students, faculty and staff; and assist in efforts that help bridge the gaps in the utilization of established University resources and services.”