During APEX weekend on August 24th, in the Morgan University Center Ballroom, the First-Generation Student Celebration, the very first one of its kind at APSU, took place from 3:00 p.m. till about 4:30 p.m.
This event was organized by Victor Felts, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Student Life and Engagement (SLE). After attending a student affairs conference in Washington, DC, and hearing about programs for first-generation students at other universities, he was inspired to start a similar program at Austin Peay.
“The support and programs other universities were providing first-generation students was really amazing, and I wanted to provide those programs for Austin Peay students,” Felts said.
When students reached the ballroom they were welcomed by two groups on campus who wanted to share their resources and help with what the event termed as G1Govs, or all first-generation students, faculty, and staff at Austin Peay.
One of these groups was the office of Distance Education, whose booth was run by Crystal Faulkner the instructional technology manager. Each G1Gov, after scanning their event pass through Peay-link, received a pin and took their seat in the ballroom.
The celebration began with Felts leading the new students in a pinning ceremony, and then it transitioned into a discussion panel made up of both students and staff members who are also G1Govs.
The panel members answered a few pre-determined questions that they felt would offer new students insight into how they can survive college. A few of these questions included what their positions were at Austin Peay and who they were before they became the people they are currently.
Many of those on the council offered their own services and help to any student who felt they needed it.
After the panel, they held what was called a breakout session. Students were split into four groups, each in a different corner of the room with a student leader.
Those sessions gave the new students who attended the ceremony an opportunity to share their own stories and experiences in coming to college despite what they faced to get to university.
The leader first shared their own story and then asked set questions, like ‘What sacrifices did the students’ parents make?’ that was open for anyone to answer if they felt comfortable doing so.
When those sessions ended Faulkner was brought up to the stage to talk about the online resources the students have to them, including but not limited to free tutoring. She wanted to share how the department of Distance Education is meant to support online learning and classes.
She expressed that even in-person classes use online resources, so all students should know that they can approach the department for any help they need with online services and issues.
They then ended the event with a second pinning ceremony, for the students who arrived late and may have missed the first one, and a video of former first lady Michelle Obama talking about her own experiences as a first-generation student.
With a farewell and group picture, the event was finished. Though Felts indicated they are planning another event on November 8th which is the National First-Generation Student Day.