First-Gen Fridays is the latest initiative The Intersection is kicking off in its mission to support students, faculty, and staff as the place for answers and opportunities in navigating college life.
With a special focus on faculty and staff who identify as “first-gen,” the first event of this monthly series will be a breakfast from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Feb. 21, in Student Union Room 208 A and B. To attend, please RSVP by Feb. 7, as space is limited.
The breakfast will give faculty and staff an opportunity to network with each other and with students.
At UNLV, the “first-gen” focus typically has been on helping students who are the first in their family to go to college. And The Intersection, which opened in 2017, was originally conceived as UNLV’s academic multicultural resource center to serve underrepresented and first-generation students.
But Harriet Barlow, The Intersection’s executive director, took to heart requests from her advisory board to explore the needs and wants of faculty and staff who identify as “first-gen,” and find ways to support them, too.
“When exploring this question, we had faculty and staff self-identify as the first to go to college, the first to graduate from college or to get an advanced degree, or even the first to work on a university campus,” Barlow said. “What has been interesting is the No. 1 thing we hear from this group is how they now embrace being first-gen and feel like it is something they can talk about. They can be seen, and they can share their story with colleagues and with students.”
In determining how best to proceed, Barlow said The Intersection conducted focus groups allowing this group, which included about 150 faculty and staff, to identify their needs and wants. She also arranged for a series of interviews in which volunteers from the group shared their stories.
“It was clear from these focus groups and interviews that there was a void and a real yearning for connection among faculty and staff who share this first-gen experience,” said Ana Marrero-Lopez, assistant director of The Intersection. “Now, we have an opportunity to bolster a sense of belonging and provide them a way to share their experiences with students.”
Marrero-Lopez said she hopes this initiative further strengthens UNLV’s sense of community, especially between faculty and students.
“When you put faculty and students together outside the classroom, it provides a wealth of opportunity for engagement,” Marrero-Lopez said. “It makes the relationship wider and helps remove any fears students may have about approaching their professors, and it helps break assumptions on either side.”