First-generation college students share unique experiences in panel event

First Gen panel
The panel, from left: Mery Arcila (MPA-PNP Candidate 2018), Professor Anthony Bertelli, Brittany Claybrooks (MUP Candidate 2018), Rasheida Alston (MPA-PNP 2016), and Professor Patricia Satterstrom.

On November 30, NYU Wagner hosted "Trailblazers: First Gen College Students,” a panel and networking opportunity focused on the unique experiences of first-generation college students. The event was co-sponsored by the Wagner Student Association and the Office of the Dean, as part of our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion programming.

Professor Patricia Satterstrom moderated the discussion, which included current students Brittany Claybrooks (MUP Candidate 2018) and Mery Arcila (MPA-PNP Candidate 2018). They were joined by Anthony Bertelli, Professor of the Politics of Public Policy, and alumna Rasheida Alston (MPA-PNP 2016), Associate Director of District Planning at the NYC DOE Office of District Planning.

The panelists shared their own journeys to higher education and spoke about the challenges they faced both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Together, panelists and attendees explored topics ranging from the importance of self-advocacy to the ways in which higher ed institutions can better support and empower first-gen students.

“Being a first-generation college student is an often overlooked, unclaimed facet of identity that generally corresponds to transitions in social class or a personal history related to overcoming hardship. Attending the event was emotional for many of us as it opened up a vulnerability that we frequently don't have a safe space to explore because we are both the students and the studied," said Tracy Jo Ingram, an NYU Wagner student in the audience. "Having the opportunity to sit with others who know the reality of navigating between two worlds, who know the struggles associated with fighting for resources and access felt potent. It felt electric to feel so much potential and 'survivorship' in one room, yet also feel that familiar long, shared haul. Focusing and celebrating first-gens is to give us space to heal our wounds, find kinship, speak our own language, and move forward together as distinctive public servants to our communities.” 

Panelist Alston added, “I am delighted to share my experiences as a first-generation college student and to be a source of encouragement for my peers."

"Having the opportunity to sit with others who know the reality of navigating between two worlds, who know the struggles associated with fighting for resources and access felt potent."

—NYU Wagner student Tracy Jo Ingram