First-generation students are recognized and celebrated

Mary Liz Flavin | news editor. Students gather in front of the prize table as they take a chance spinning the wheel of prizes, which included water bottles, Starbucks gift cards and more.

Mary Liz Flavin | news editor

Nov. 11, 2021

Students gathered around the various tables and participated in raffles, a wheel of prizes and food and drink tables Monday as they celebrated what it means to be a first generation student attending Duquesne University. On Nov. 8, the First Generation Student Celebration was held on the third floor of the Student Union.

Angela Fichter, a first-generation student, said she enjoyed participating in the event. 

“It’s fun, I got a water bottle and some candy and I met some good friends. I’m having fun, that’s all that matters,” Fichter said. 

Faculty and staff volunteers ranging from Student Life to athletics considered themselves first generation students or allies to the first-generation community according to Ashley Kane, lead planner and coordinator for student involvement and disabilities services. Staff from Parkhurst, Vice President for Student Life Doug Frizzell and Liberal Arts School Dean Kris Blair also aided in this event. 

Josephine Rizzo, an advisor at Duquesne’s Spiritan Division, helped at a table that served various candy and cookies from Oakmont Bakery. She was glad she could share her experience as a first-generation student with others. 

“I’m very proud. My parents were both Italian immigrants so they didn’t have the opportunity to go to college so being a first-generation American and first-generation college student with a master’s degree, I am ecstatic,” Rizzo said. 

The first time this event was held was in 2019. Prior to that, there was a higher education consortium conference in 2017 where faculty formed a committee and formally planned a function that celebrated first generation students, according to Kane. 

“We kind of brainstormed together, formed a committee and said, ‘OK, how can we show appreciation to our first generation students?’” Kane said. 

Incoming students can find more information about first-generation students during the FAST program in July, and parents can find out more through the parent and family portal located on Duquesne’s website. In addition, the student involvement office can help with any additional questions. 

Karyn Reinhart, an office manager in the school of music, is glad that students have the resources they need to be successful as  first generation students. 

“We didn’t have anyone encouraging us when we went to school. There was nothing like this saying, ‘Hey, we know you’re special, we know there are certain difficulties you may not be able to have family to talk to about, but we are here and other people have experienced it, we are here to be good examples for other students,’” Reinhart said. 

Blair showed her support for students by helping at the information table. She enjoyed seeing staff and faculty welcoming students to the event and creating a sense of community. 

“It’s just a matter of creating a support network, not presuming just by virtue of being on campus everyone automatically knows where to go on campus to ask questions about their academic program or about different kinds of resources on campus,” Blair said. “The idea again that we can all be here today to provide those connections is a real honor and a treat for me.”  

Fatima Demlak, a first generation student, enjoyed the event and liked that it spread awareness to those who are not familiar with what students like her experience. 

“I think it’s cool and a good idea especially for people who aren’t first generation students just to realize that there are others who aren’t from the same background as them. It’s just building first generation students a sense of community because most of us feel like we don’t fit in or are ashamed. Seeing other people like you makes it feel a little more like home,” Demlak said.