NWOSU launches First-Gen Club with celebration and connection event

Roxie J. James Ph.D., Northwestern Oklahoma State University / The Center / December 08, 2022

First-gen students outside in front of tent holding multicolored signs for First-Generation College Celebration

We here at Northwestern Oklahoma State University recognize that first-generation students often experience anxiety over what help, if any, may be available at their institutions, and we wanted to combat that anxiety by hosting a First-Generation Celebration and having all available avenues for first-generation students represented.

Setup for our inaugural celebration began at 8:00 am with eight people setting up a tent that offered cover for tables providing information for the student-led First-Gen Club; Upward Bound; LASSO (Leadership, Academic Success, Superior Outcomes); Student Support Services; and Campus Cabinet (the university’s food pantry).

Prior to the event, student services placed a display in the university’s library, the student newspaper published an informative article about the celebration, and several of our university’s social media platforms were dedicated to boasting about the event and first-generation student information in general.

The celebration began at 9:00 am, and it was not without setbacks. The coffee urn would not heat properly, the television displaying the videos of first-gen faculty and staff refused to connect, and it was a crisp 32℉. However, Northwestern’s mission statement asserts that we provide “quality education and cultural opportunities” to our students, and all of our volunteers worked their hardest to make that a reality. We held the event in an area that sits almost in the middle of campus and allowed us direct access to students visiting the student center, the library, and the student services office. We wanted to be as visible as possible and in a location with a large amount of student traffic.

This event is important to us because there are a number of first-generation Northwestern students who do not know about the resources that are available to them on campus.

The event boasted free hot chocolate, donuts, stickers, water, two food trucks, and a quick game or two of corn hole for anyone brave enough to brace the cold and wander over to find out why some of the university’s faculty and staff were singing along to Britney Spears. The event also held a photo booth with props, sold T-shirts promoting first-gen awareness, had videos of first-generation students offering encouraging words of wisdom on a big screen TV, and first-generation faculty and staff standing around offering information and advice to anyone who needed it.

Northwestern is a regional institute that provides higher education opportunities to students in rural Northwest Oklahoma. Because of this, NWOSU has a high proportion of students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. We saw this event as an excellent opportunity for students, faculty, and staff to display their support.

“This event is important to us because there are a number of first-generation Northwestern students who do not know about the resources that are available to them on campus,” said Tosh Miller, director of TRIO Student Support Services. “It is a big deal to be the first in their family to graduate from college. We want to see all of our students succeed and provide the resources to help our first-generation students on campus. We also want to show that being first-generation can change your family tree while building solidarity and relationships between first-gen students, faculty, staff, and alumni.”

Northwestern Oklahoma State University's 2022 First-Generation College Celebration was made possible by a $500 grant from the Center for First-generation Student Success and the Council for Opportunity in Education. Learn more about their celebration here!