The First-Generation and Low-Income Student Center held its opening reception Friday on the fifth floor of the Sciences Library.
At the reception, President Christina Paxson P’19 said the center, which is currently staffed by six paid undergraduates and one part-time graduate student, will be hiring a full-time staff member. Students are currently supervised by Ricky Gresh, director of campus life projects, and Yolanda Rome, assistant dean for first-year and sophomore studies — both of whom hold office hours in the center once a week in addition to their other responsibilities.
As a former first-gen student himself, Gresh said that while the project had been a personal investment for him, the center needed a full-time staff member to keep up with demands.
The center, commonly referred to as FLIC, was initially dubbed the First-Generation Center, but students pushed for a new name encompassing low-income students so the center would be as “inclusive and intersectional as possible,” said Emily Doglio ’17, former First-Gens@Brown leader.
FLIC provides a peer-mentoring program, organizes mental health workshops by Counseling and Psychological Services and hosts courses on academic essay writing and the first-gen experience. The center is also located one floor below the Office of the Dean of Financial Advising.
“It’s an umbrella organization,” Gresh told The Herald, adding that FLIC brings many established diversity and inclusion programs under the same roof as well. “It houses Questbridge, Millenial and Gates scholars, Bonner Fellows from the Swearer Center and undocumented students.”
Viet Nguyen ’17, president of the Undergraduate Council of Students, called the center’s opening moment “surreal.” He recounted how the push for a dedicated First-Generation Center began during his sophomore year, after the first-ever 1vyG conference at Brown.
“We’ve slowly chipped away at the stigma about class,” Nguyen said, emphasizing that ‘first-gen’ and ‘low-income’ had transformed into labels of pride and community on campus in his time here.
Monica Yang ’18, co-president of First-Gens@Brown, tapped into this affirmative spirit. “Before you applied, what did you think Brown looks like?” she asked. “Brown looks like you.”
Provost Richard Locke P’17 also took a turn at the podium Friday, sporting a “First-Gens@Brown” badge that read “First but not alone.”
“When I was at Wesleyan, I remember feeling like I didn’t have the same roadmap as my peers. … There was an element of shame in that,” he said. “We shouldn’t be repeating the same mistakes.”
He credited students as well as faculty and staff members for educating the administration about the needs of the low-income and first-generation communities through “working groups, research and advocacy.”
“If we want to be a leading institution in the 21st century, we have to attract the very best and brightest students to our campus,” Paxson said. “And those students come from around the globe, from around the country, from all economic classes, from all races and ethnicities.”
Students envision the center as both an academic support network and a social space, but the center has a maximum capacity of “around 100 people” to serve the entire first-gen and low-income student population, Alexis Rodriguez-Camacho ’18, co-president of First-Gens@Brown told The Herald. In addition, during work hours, the center shares the space with the Writing Center and tutoring services. Afterwards, the space can be used for socializing and studying by students.
“We’ll see how the first year goes and how students are using the space,” Nguyen told The Herald, adding that FLIC’s priority over the next year is to increase awareness about the support services offered, he added.
While incoming freshmen who check the ‘first-generation college student’ box are automatically added to the Center’s database, many first-generation and low-income students already enrolled at Brown may not be aware of these new resources, center staffer Perla Montas ’17 told The Herald. “We’re also trying to reach out to alums who were first-gen but didn’t have this vocabulary,” she added.
“We’re so happy that everything aligned at the same time,” Yang told The Herald about the announcement. “This is everything we hoped for.”
Just beside the exit, a student from the class of 2020 left an anonymous note one of the Center’s walls. “I chose Brown because of this community. I literally would not have without this support group.”