Looking Out for the First-Generation Students of NYU

Nina Jang, Deputy Digital Director

As the first in the family to attend college, first-generation students wade into a sea of unknowns that are often overlooked without a second thought. To alleviate the confusion of academic requirements and the endless possibility of career paths, several NYU programs have sought to help these students maneuver through the daunting yet incredibly rewarding path of higher education. Here are two of the things that have lent a helping hand to these students.

Proud to be First Program

With 19 percent of the CAS class of 2019 identifying as first-generation students, the newly launched CAS program seeks to coordinate programs, mentoring and advocacy to directly assist these students. Upon identification as first-generation, the student is immediately linked with one of eight Proud to be First mentors — fellow college students that help plan and implement meetings, social events and workshops. By connecting these first-year students to university resources, faculty and staff, the program hopes to transcend the message that these students are what make CAS a stronger and more successful community.

CAS Assistant Dean and Leadership Team member Sarah Beth Bailey is dedicated to serving as a visible advocate for first-generation students at NYU.

“Proud to Be First fosters diversity and inclusion at NYU,” Bailey said. “There is not one single experience of a first-generation college student and we need to convey this through story sharing, allyship and advocacy.”

Hearing the stories of other first-generation faculty, staff and fellow students helps the first-generation students feel more comfortable to realize that they are not alone in their college careers. Simple things such as how to navigate going home during breaks, how to reach out for support or how to help their families understand the college experience are valuable knowledge to the participants.

As a mentor and a first-generation student herself, CAS junior Tazmin Rahman recognizes the importance of connecting the students with resources on campus after witnessing the positive boost of confidence within
each mentee.

“As I watched all those scared faces enter Hermindinger Hall the first time, I could see parts of myself in each one,” Rahman said. “Each person brought charisma, intelligence and stories to our newfound family, building its character and forming its foundation. After each conversation, I saw the visible impact I’d had on my mentees; the fear in their eyes vanished and they seemed much more relaxed and relieved.”

First Class: Professional Development and Mentorship Program

Recently launched by the NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development, the program features a series of workshops to guide first generation students beyond their studies to concentrate on honing their career paths. Paired with a professional mentor and career coach, the program provides a platform to incorporate the students’ academic interests as indicators for potential internships and careers. As a participant, CAS sophomore Jeremy Muhia had been drawn to this aspect of inclusiveness and opportunity for further career development. But more importantly, Muhia believes that the focus on helping first-generation students catch up to their peers establishes a stronger NYU community by encouraging a cycle of giving.

“This experience has been helpful because I’ve learned more about navigating the corporate environment,” Muhia said. “I feel that this program benefits the overall NYU community by encouraging us students who have benefitted from the program to pay it forward by helping younger students and advising them.”

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, May 2 print edition. Email Nina Jang at [email protected]