From the President and VP for DEI: Southern's First-Gen Initiative

October 11, 2022

Dear Southern community, 

The beginning of a new academic year is always filled with welcomes, as we gather on campus once again for classes, meetings, and the various activities that make up the life of a university. 

We want to extend a special welcome to our students who identify as first-generation college students. Nearly one-third of our entire student body – undergraduate and graduate students –and more than half of our first-year class – 57 percent – identify as first-gen. At Southern, undergraduate and graduate students are considered first-gen if neither parent has completed a four-year college or university degree.

We strive to support all students on their academic journeys, but we also understand that first-gen students may need a bit more support, or different kinds of support. Our commitment to first-gen student success and celebrating first-gen identity on campus is a priority. To that end, we’ve developed a First-Gen Initiative, which is a community of support from peer mentors, faculty, and staff.  

As part of this initiative, we’ve created a First-Gen website, which offers resources for undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, and parents and families. Here you’ll find information on navigating academics, experiencing campus life, paying for school, and finding support. You’ll also read the stories of your fellow students, faculty, and staff who are first-gen and see a portrait gallery of members of the Southern community who identify as first-gen.  We hope that this website will help you to see yourself as part of a community of scholars. 

Did you know that November 8 is the National First-Generation College Celebration, a nationwide recognition of first-gen students? We’ll be joining in with some special events – details will be coming soon. 

In the meantime, we invite you to explore our First-Gen website and online photo gallery, and perhaps to submit your own story. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the resources on the website if you need assistance.

Feel free to drop by the University Access Programs office in Engleman B018 and pick up a "First-Gen Southern Owl" button, to show your first-gen pride!

We hope you’re enjoying the fall semester so far and we look forward to engaging with you and other first-gen students as you experience all that Southern has to offer.


Joe Bertolino

Diane Ariza
Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion