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First-generation students are the future of the College of Liberal Arts

In the past several weeks, the College of Liberal Arts has highlighted two of our first-generation college students in our Freshman Innovation Group (FIG) blog. As a recap on First-Generation College Student Day, we re-explore their experiences and journeys at Texas A&M.

By Hannah LeGare ’19

The Freshman Innovation Group (FIG) is a College of Liberal Arts-specific program that provides incoming, first-generation freshmen a learning community involving a small network of faculty, advisors, and administrators in partnership with students.

The College of Liberal Arts welcomes and celebrates first-generation students — the pioneers who are the first in their family to earn an undergraduate degree at a university. These students are breaking new ground in their families with their academic journeys. Almost 30% of all Liberal Arts majors are first-gen.

The FIG program links two seminar-sized courses that allows sets of 25 students to move together as a cohort through their first year. Along with funding provided for course materials, meals with faculty, and academic programming that engages student interests and experiences, FIG students participate in opportunities that build a strong foundation for their academic and social success.

That monumental journey probably seems quite formidable. That’s why the College is dedicated to creating networks that give first-gen students the chance to get the answers they need, providing opportunities for them to meet with and be mentored by first-gen college faculty, advisors, and alumni, and ensuring they know that the College of Liberal Arts is their partner in their current academic and lifelong pursuits.

A day in the life of first-gen students

As the College of Liberal Arts prepares first-generation students for their academic and lifelong pursuits, the College helps parents to interact and engage with their students at Texas A&M.

On Saturday, Oct. 5, 25 parents of first-generation students of the Freshman Innovation Group (FIG) attended the new event, “Experience a Day in the Life of Your Student.”

The parents of the FIG students were able to attend two classes that day, one taught by sociology professor Tim Woods and another led by anthropology professor Catharina Laporte. The parents also heard from advisor of the Department of Hispanic Studies Zuleika Carrasco-Martinez, went on an interactive Evans Library tour hosted by Sarah LeMire, and heard from FIG Student Mentors Jacy Murdock and Addison Walker via video presentation.

The parents were delighted with the event, with one person commenting, “I want to go to every one of these professors’ lectures.”

Associate Dean for Inclusive Excellence and Strategic Initiatives Leroy G. Dorsey headed up this innovative experience.

“The goal of this event was not only to give first-gen parents a better understanding of what their students do at a four-year academic institution, but to also give those parents an opportunity to have a shared experience with their students,” he said. “It’s a moment where they can empathize with their students’ activities because they had them too.”

Freshman Innovation Group blog

Daniela Guzman

Similarly, there are more spaces for parents and first-generation students to empathize and engage with each other beyond interactive events.

Since its launch in September 2019, the FIG blog gives an inside scoop of what the college experience is actually like for first-generation students. Two students, Daniela Guzman and Olivia Peralez, have contributed their experiences and stories over a variety of topics that are relevant and applicable to all college students.

Daniela Guzman, a communication major, was born and raised in Houston, Texas to a Mexican family. Her parents immigrated to the United States in search of a better life. After graduating high school as class valedictorian, she dreamed of attending Texas A&M; however, her parents didn’t understand her decision. Guzman explained to her parents that going to college would be a challenging, yet beneficial experience for her to explore. After much deliberation and persuasion, Guzman’s parents relented and now she is enjoying her sophomore year at Texas A&M.

Olivia Peralez, a sociology major, was born in Corpus Christi and raised in Robstown, Texas. According to Peralez, she came from a Hispanic household that normally wouldn’t let their children go to college far away. She made the hard choice of going to Texas A&M in College Station, not the Corpus Christi branch, which would be close to home – she wanted to push herself and step out of her comfort zone. Since being at Texas A&M, Peralez enjoys the many Aggie traditions and experiences. She is currently in her sophomore year at Texas A&M.

Stay true to the maroon

Olivia Peralez

In following along with the FIG students, Guzman and Peralez have remarked on the following topics: Fish Camp, napping, why they chose their specific majors, time management, eating and staying healthy, tracking finances, life living off-campus, staying focused, social relationships, and how Aggieland has become home.

“College allows you to start fresh,” said Guzman.

Aggieland is home to Guzman and Peralez, but it hasn’t been easy; since being far away from their tight-knit families, they have made decisions on who or what they will invest in. Each decision seems like a choice that will affect the rest of their lives.

“Many college students like you and me spend countless late hours studying for exams, balancing assignments, trying to have a social life, and submitting assignments at the final deadline,” Peralez said.

Within all these choices – from organizations to join, courses to enroll in, and friends to make – they are rooted in Aggieland. They both enjoy their student organizations, Aggie football wins, and experiencing all that Texas A&M has to offer.

They each bring something special to College Station – their grit, passions, and commitment to themselves.

The College of Liberal Arts welcomes and celebrates first-generation students. The Freshman Innovation Group (FIG) enables them to interact with students just like them, learn how to interact with the university system, and grow as mentors and pathfinders.

First-gen students, such as Guzman and Peralez, are the first explorers in their families who are seeking to use their intellectual and interpersonal talents to accomplish academic, professional, and social growth in pursuit of a degree.

There’s much to celebrate on First-Generation College Student Day.