First Gen Fellows — a program under the Department of Student Engagement and a registered student organization — has relocated their office to room 213 in the Mattress Factory. The program — formerly located in MAT 103 — decided to move due to overcrowding and limited space for student employees and guests. First Gen Fellows has also undergone changes in leadership.
First Gen Fellows is a UW Tacoma student-led and student-driven organization that supports students who are the first in their families to earn a degree at a four-year university. First Gen Fellows offers a range of services and resources to help assist students and collaborates with several on-campus partners and departments.
The program hosts several events throughout the academic year to help students transition and become more accustomed to college life. Events hosted by First Gen Fellows this academic year include Who Let the Dogs Out, Foraging the Hive at UWT, Swipe Right for Success, Free 99, the National First-Generation college celebration, the potluck, the bonfire and the Emotional Intelligence Workshop. Many of these events have been hosted in collaboration with on and off campus organizations and departments.
All of First Gen Fellows events have aimed to allow first-generation students to get involved, meet new people, network and take away lessons that will help them in their future careers and lives.
“The way we like to set up our events is when a student comes into our workshop, we hope that they will gain something out of it and take that information with them,” said Araik Papyan, First Gen Fellows leadership development coordinator. “We try to get it so that it’s [more than] just a fun event that students go to. It’s [our goal] that students will [develop] a learning outcome. It could be something academic or intellectual that they will [be able to] use in their life.”
Because of the relocation, a number of First Gen Fellows events will be postponed to a later date. However, students are welcome to stop by the office at any time and make suggestions for the space and the program. Additionally, there will be an opportunity for students to meet the new First Gen Fellows leadership during the Cohort Meet & Greet on Jan. 23 from 12:30-1:30 p.m. The current team is comprised of Araik Papyan and Margarita Daisy Gonzalez as leadership development coordinators, Paola Jean Chua as operations assistant, Nhien Le as marketing assistant and Yanira Pacheco as the new first-generation student initiatives coordinator. All of the team members are first-generation.
Pacheco joins UWT after having worked at the University of Maryland as an academic coach and coordinating the Supplemental Instruction Program for nine years. She has also worked in several areas and positions in counseling and recruitment and retention for underrepresented students. She attended the University of Puerto Rico and received her bachelor’s degree in mass communication with a specialization in public relations. Pacheco is excited to be a part of the First Gen Fellows organization and has several goals.
“I want to make sure that I respect and recognize the efforts of those who were here before me,” said Pacheco. “They were able to see the needs of first-generation students but they also had the courage and the initiative to serve by developing this program. My first goal is to make sure that I support the ongoing work of the First Gen Fellows program. Another one of my goals is to make sure that I help increase the services and programs across campus to support our first-generation students. We’re talking about almost 60 percent [of our campus]. My other goal is to strengthen our partnerships and collaborations that we already have with many other programs and initiatives across campus.”
At the moment, the First Gen Fellows cohort-based program will not change. Implemented over a year ago, the model provides students with support and opportunities through three phases — navigation, empowerment and leadership. Navigation assists students in learning the language, empowerment allows students to learn about their identity and find their voice, and the leadership phase encourages students to get involved on campus, and apply what they learn at UWT and in their community. Pacheco expects the program to evolve based on student needs and current higher education trends regarding services for first-generation students. She looks forward to assisting all first-generation students on their journey through higher education and hopes to be able to inspire them and learn from them.
“I want to remind our students that they can do this, they belong here, and they are going to graduate” Pacheco said.