Guiding a new era: First Gen Fellows

A first generation students is a student whose parent or guardian has not completed their college degree to a Bachelor’s level. Fifty-six percent of students at UW Tacoma are first generation students, based on Autumn 2018’s enrollment results. To ensure success and stability for students, First Gen Fellows provides multiple workshops and resources open to the student body. 

Yanira Pacheco Ortiz, first generation student initiatives coordinator, explained that their workshops are structured in a way to help guide students throughout the year.Autumn workshops focus on navigation, winter will focus on empowerment and spring with center around leadership.

“The goal of these workshops is to expose people to resources on campus and to connect them to faces —  people — in those units for the resources they may need,” Ortiz stated. “Our programs are designed for First Gen, but they are beneficial for all students.” 

First Gen Fellows has also started a new cohort program. The cohort will be a small community of 20 students. Some of the benefits these students will receive include monthly “lunch and learns,” access to all workshops, the opportunity to be a peer success mentor and they also qualify for a $200 book scholarship. There are two application periods: the one in autumn has already closed, but the other period will open in winter. This cohort is designed for sophomore, returning and transfer first-generation students.

Another First Gen initiative is the ‘We Are the First Generation.’ This is a returning campaign in which first generation staff, faculty and students can share their story or biography through online submissions. The biggest inspiration for this campaign was to create solidarity and encourage for other first generation students. Submissions for this year’s campaign are now closed and those selected will have their stories published on the First Generation Fellows webpage, turned into a poster for West Coast Grocery and will be acknowledged next month during the National First Generation Celebration on Nov. 8.

The First Generation Initiatives Office provides several resources for students to readily access, from programs on campus to connections with community members. First Generation also promotes its office as a place where students can feel safe.

“It’s a place to study or have a meeting,” Ortiz said. “Students come here to eat lunch, use the microwave or fridge. Many people just come here to connect and ask questions … You have to provide safe places for students to do that without fear of being judged.”

“Share what you know, don’t be afraid to ask. Be comfortable saying that even if you don’t know what to ask that it’s okay not to know.”


October 22nd will be their next workshop on Scholarships and Fellowships information in Dougan 101.
Other workshops  events that will be held Autumn quarter will be:
Academic Advising Tools (Oct. 24)
Study Abroad Informational (Oct. 28)
Time Management (Oct. 30)
Handshake, (Nov. 13)
Strong Interest Inventory (Nov. 18)
How to Apply for FAFSA (Nov. 20)
Networking Event (Dec. 4).