Find your first-gen fam

A new student org aims to ease the transition to Hamline for first-generation students.

Kelly Holm, Senior Reporter

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For junior Samira Abdi, the road to post-secondary success came with bumps. As a first-generation college student, she felt that she did not enter Hamline with the background knowledge that fellow Pipers whose parents have four-year degrees may already possess.

“When I came to college my first year, I did not know anything,” Abdi said. “I knew how to do the work and go to my classes, the bare minimum. But I didn’t know much about, ‘who do I go to for this?’ or ‘who do I go to for that?’… I was just feeling my way through things. It wasn’t until my sophomore year when I started talking to people more, that I got that information.”

Senior Raie Gessesse described similar hardships and wished a support network would have been there to demystify the university experience for her. 

“I found myself struggling to locate and utilize my resources,” Gessesse said.

 As a member of the First Generation Student Initiatives Committee, she noted that the committee was comprised of mainly faculty and staff, even though first-generation students make up nearly half of Hamline’s student body. 47% of members of the class of 2023 self-reported as being first-generation, a 5% increase from the class of 2022.

“I realized that there was a need to expand this committee into something that was student-led and student-driven,” Gessesse said. “Myself and a couple of other members on that committee decided to meet to strategize around how to create a new student organization.”

Besides those initial committee members, Gessesse recruited a few other first-generation students, including Abdi, to form an executive board for the org. These initial members of First Generation Scholars, as they dubbed themselves, took care of the club’s logistical design over J-term 2019 and elected officers in the spring, in preparation for an autumn launch.

“We are hoping to have a variety of different programming this year, mostly centered around fostering a supportive space for first-generation students to come together and talk about our experiences,” Gessesse said. “Our organization views first-generation students as an asset to our university and thus [wants] to create a space that recognizes this and values our interpersonal contributions.”

In the coming months, First Generation Scholars hopes to bring speakers to campus, including first-generation graduates. They plan to offer peer mentoring services and other professional development activities, and screen films relevant to their mission as well. 

The criteria for who gets to be considered a first-generation student might seem confusing to some, since it is often also framed as simply being the first member of one’s family to attend college.

“If your [older] sibling went to college but your parents didn’t, you are still considered a first-generation student [at Hamline],” senior Asha Nooh, the president of First Generation Scholars, said. However, Nooh specified that “first-generation can be defined differently [at other] institutions.”

First Generation Scholars’ adviser is Carlos Sneed, the Associate Dean of Students and Director of the Hedgeman Center. Regular meetings will be held once per month during Thursday convo hour in Anderson Center 304, with the next three taking place on Oct. 10, Nov. 14 and Dec. 12.

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