UW Tacoma’s First Gen Fellows hosted their second annual Who Let the Dawgs Out event on the first floor of the Tacoma Paper and Stationary building Oct. 3 from noon to 2 p.m. First Gen Fellows — also referred to as First Generation College Students — is a program that provides individualized support to students who identify as first in their family to attend college. It aims to help get first generation college admitted students to graduation and get them involved around campus by hosting a range of events throughout the school year.
Leadership development coordinator Maria Crisostomo Salmeron explained how First Gen came up with the idea of hosting a therapeutic dog event.
“As a team we thought that it was important that we have a dog therapy event because we noticed that a lot of first generation students are used to working all the time,” Crisostomo Salmeron said. “It’s just work, work, work, all the time. It’s like you go to school, you go to work. And it’s always work and we noticed that a lot of students don’t take time to reduce stress. And we’re like what way can we help students reduce stress? And we [thought] hey, why not dogs?”
Crisostomo Salmeron also stated that the event is partly inspired from other schools like Seattle University, who puts on a similar event every year, as well as the desire to make UW Tacoma stand out.
“We try to do things that other campuses like UW Bothell or UW Seattle haven’t done or what UW Tacoma itself hasn’t done,” Crisostomo Salmeron said. “We try to … provide those things because we want to make it unique.”
To achieve this goal, First Gen Fellows partnered up with Pet Partners, a nonprofit organization founded in 1977 that registers animals to become therapeutic and help reduce stress, anxiety and blood pressure. Because feedback from last year’s attempt was positive, First Gen decided to host the event again.
At the beginning of the event, students were able pet one of three dogs. Each person or group was given about two minutes to spend with each dog. Attendees had the option of getting back in line to pet a different dog for as many times as they wanted. While waiting, students could drink hot chocolate provided by First Gen. Besides just petting the dogs, guests could also talk with the trainers and watch the dogs perform various tricks.
Last year, the event brought about 300 students. Crisostomo Salmeron expected at least 300 attendees this year and after a count, there was approximately 200. Crisostomo Salmeron hopes that more students will attend in the future and encourages all to come because even though the event may seem “silly,” it is a simple way to get involved around campus.
“First generation students are always working, and even if you’re not a first generation student, I feel like a lot of students nowadays are always working,” Crisostomo Salmeron said. “It sounds silly, but try to get involved; involvement is very important. Petting a dog may not be the involvement you want, [but] it’s a way to reduce stress and also get to know other people and then get to know the research behind the dog event.”
The printed article incorrectly stated that readers may learn more information about the First Gen Fellows at both their RSO profile, and at the Pet Partners website. Readers may learn about the dogs and their handlers at the Pet Partners website.