An optional welcome session for first-generation students will be offered beginning this summer, at freshman and transfer orientation sessions, to help incoming first-generation
students adjust to UT.
Launched as a collaboration between New Student Services and the First-Generation Commitment Working Group, this 50 minute session will be offered at the beginning of each three-day orientation session, said Celena Mondie-Milner, director for New Student Services and co-chair for First-Generation Commitment Working Group.
“We will have an opportunity … for incoming students to ask questions to other first-generation college students and have those students share their experience of success and how they have persisted — the little things that sometimes you don’t get an opportunity to ask or you’re not sure what questions to ask,” Mondie-Milner said. “We want to create an environment where first-gen college students feel welcomed and comfortable that they can celebrate their journey with other peers when they arrive here on campus.”
Business freshman Arjun Gangakhedkar said he would have definitely benefited from this kind of session because even now, he feels he is unaware of all resources available to first-generation Longhorns.
“Without a program like that, it’s really on me to go out and make the effort to try to discover what kind of programs and what resources are available, as compared to if we had a one-hour session … (at) freshman orientation for first-generation students where all of those resources are presented upfront,” Gangakhedkar said. “I really wish something like that would have happened when I was coming into college.”
Mondie-Milner said the purpose of the session is to also share resources available to first-generation students, such as the new First Generation Living Learning Community beginning this fall in Jester West.
“One of our coordinators will be responsible for working with first-generation students in that residential area, where they’ll have a common place of living and also learning and discussing some of their experiences,” Mondie-Milner said. “(They will be) able to share their experiences and support each other during the academic year in their living space.”
Dezarae Olivo, a social work and education freshman, said her transition to UT was very difficult because she felt like she did not know anyone or any place to ask for help.
“Now that I’ve met a lot of first-gen students, I realize that there’s a lot of people that are going through the exact same thing as me, and that we’re all figuring it out as we go,” Olivo said. “I feel like if we had this little session during orientation, I think it’d be very helpful. The amount of help that could have been given, not only to me, but thousands of students is mind-blowing.”
Social work freshman Destiny Ayala also said the peer support within the orientation session would be a huge benefit for incoming first-generation students, because speaking with someone who understands and has lived through their situation would give new students solidarity.
“It’s a lot easier to seek guidance from people that are similar to you, so I feel like it would be very beneficial,” Ayala said. “It’ll feel good to see people like yourself, like you’re not here alone.”