Over the past week, the University of Maine Division of Lifelong Learning is working in collaboration with the Division of Student Life to initiate the first initiative and inaugural First Gen Celebration Week starting on Nov. 4, 2019. Last year was the first year the University of Maine launched the ‘First Generation Success Initiative,’ which serves to uplift and empower first-generation college students.
Students whose parents have not completed a bachelor’s degree are considered “first-generation students.” As of 2019, 67% of the University of Maine’s first-year student body population are first-generation college students.
Campus events took place throughout the week in recognition of first-generation students, primarily at the Memorial Union.
The UMaine community celebrated First-Gen Students Week to bring awareness to the struggles and difficulties that first-generation students endure, as well as recognizing the hard work that the students put in at UMaine.
Approximately 25% of both the student and faculty population at UMaine are first-generation.
Monica LaRocque is the associate provost for the Division of Lifelong Learning at UMaine. When speaking on behalf of first-generation students at UMaine, LaRocque stated, “We know that at the University of Maine we retain first-gen students at a lower rate than the rest of the student population… we believe we can do better.”
To welcome and encourage a higher population of first-generation students at UMaine, ensuring students apply to the University of Maine is a critical portion of the process. The UMaine admissions staff strongly promotes the university to high school students through physical recruitment, social media, college fairs and presentations.
To ensure a smooth transition to the university, all of the schools in the University of Maine system provides a program called “Student Support Systems” (SSS). With SSS, first-generation students have access to additional support.
Through the SSS, UMaine also has specific grants for first-generation students, which helps to increase the numbers of first-generation students at the university. There are also scholarship opportunities that only go to first-generation students. Apart from financial assistance, SSS offers students academic advising, preparation for graduate school, academic skill-building, resume building and provides resources to work on social and literacy skills.
Additionally, SSS works closely with the UMaine counseling center to ensure students’ mental health issues are addressed and all potential needs are taken into account.
69% of the students who take advantage of the SSS program across the UMaine system are first-generation.
The overall number of first-generation students is increasing across the state. The entire University of Maine system, which includes the University of Southern Maine, University of Maine Fort Kent, Presque Isle, Farmington, Machias and the UMaine School of Law, have all seen higher rates of enrollment of first-generation students in recent years. With a higher number of students who come from a family that wasn’t college-educated, it creates a more diverse student body. The University of Maine is happy to spend the week celebrating the accomplishments of these students to acknowledge the hard work and roadblocks that these students often have to overcome.