Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion Hosts First-Generation Students Event


Photo courtesy of Tirtha Anawekar.

Members of the university community talk during the first-generation students event, Nov. 8, West Haven.

On Nov. 8, the Myatt Center for Diversity and Inclusion hosted a meeting to recognize the university’s first-generation students, staff and faculty.

Dean of Students Ophelie Rowe-Allen sent an email to university students on the morning of the event, saying that more than 40% of students are a part of the first-generation community, along with many faculty and staff, such as herself.

In the email, she said the university “enables [its] first-generation students to thrive by providing them the support and resources that lead to success.”

She also said, “I applaud all of our first-generation students, and I thank everyone at the University for all they do to support our students and help them succeed in and out of the classroom.”

The event hosted keynote speaker Larry Flannigan who is on the Board of Governors at the university. Flannigan shared his personal story as a first-generation student and graduate of the university, class of 1980. He said that it was a tough journey starting out as a freshman, as he felt unprepared for what lied ahead of him. Coming from a family which did not pursue higher education, Flannigan said that he struggled with his early college journey. At one point, he even considered dropping out because of the anxiety he experienced.

He said he was encouraged by an advisor to pursue his initial instinct to get a college degree and further his education, not only for himself, but for his family. Flannigan went on to earn his college degree, and work for companies such as Mastercard and Covergirl. He said he is proud of his journey and encourages the students at the university to pursue their passions, especially when faced with adversity.

“Take advantage of all of the resources that the university has to offer,” Flannigan said. “When it comes to yourself, get more than your fair share of resources, use all of them. You’ll really value from it. Someday, that experience will help you write your own success story.”

Elizabeth Anhall, a sophomore clinical psychology major, said that being a first-generation student can be stressful at times as she feels she is always being held to a higher standard.

“It can be a kind of scary experience because people have a lot of high expectations,” Anhall said. “You have to learn everything on your own… Although there is stress being a first-generation student, my family is really proud of me.”

Anhall is the vice president of the First Generation Student Association, which is a recognized student organization that represents first-generation students at the university. The group meets Thursday nights in Kaplan Hall.

Attendee Sofia Martinez, a senior communications major, said that she is proud to be a first-generation student and that it has impacted her work ethic throughout her time at the university.

Martinez said, “I can remember sitting down at the kitchen table with my mother and saying that I’m going to get the University of New Haven to pay me by the time I leave. She looked at me and she went, ‘that’s not how college works.’”

Martinez said she is proud to be represented as a first-generation student. Now as a senior and president of the Undergraduate Student Government Association, her conversation with her mother came true, as the university does pay for her to be here.