Dartmouth Hosts Weeklong Celebration of First-Gen Students

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Events include a “giant group photo” and a dinner at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge.

FYSEP students with President Beilock.
President Sian Leah Beilock joins the students from the 2023 First Year Summer Enrichment Program before the start of fall term. (Photo courtesy of Jay Davis)

Janice Williams ’92 and Jay Davis ’90 of the First-Generation Office are sending out the call to all 700-plus first-generation Dartmouth undergraduates to show up for a group photo in front of Baker Tower on Sunday, Nov. 5, at 2 p.m.

“This will be the first-ever huge group photo of our community,” says Williams, associate director of the First-Generation Office and herself a first-generation college student. “That’s why we’re pushing this out—making sure our students know that by coming out we show that we support each other. That we are here, and we are seen.”

The photo on Sunday kicks off First-Gen at Dartmouth Celebration Week, which includes a lineup of celebratory events, hosted by more than a dozen organizations across campus, including a dinner at Moosilauke Ravine Lodge on Monday, a celebration and reception at the Office of Student Life on Tuesday, open houses at Dartmouth Admissions on Tuesday and Wednesday, a student athletes’ dinner hosted by Dartmouth Athletics on Thursday, a bingo and dance party on Friday night, and much more.

“The opportunity to partner with all the many organizations on campus—admissions, student life, the undergraduate dean’s office, the academic skills center— that are similarly committed to first-generation students thriving is just a fantastic opportunity,” says Davis, First-Generation Office director and assistant dean of undergraduate students. “And then of course to have our students celebrated is a big deal.”

In a message to first-generation Dartmouth undergraduates, President Sian Leah Beilock writes, “Thank you for being an inspiration to all of us and our greater community. We are immensely proud that you chose Dartmouth, and we are here to support you every step of the way in your campus life and beyond. You are an important part of the Dartmouth family, and Dartmouth is for life.”

The president’s letter is co-signed by 21 top administrators, including five who were also first-gen college students: Dean of the College Scott Brown, Chief Transition Officer LaMar Bunts, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Lee Coffin, Senior Vice President and Senior Diversity Officer Shontay Delalue, and Executive Vice President for Strategy and Special Counsel to the President Jomysha Delgado Stephen.

Janice Williams, Blessing Ndeh, and Jay Davis in the First Generation office
Janice Williams ’92 and Jay Davis ’90 meet with Blessing Ndeh ’27, center, a King Scholar from Cameroon and a FYSEP program alumna, in the First-Generation Program office recently. (Photo by Eli Burakian ’00)

On Wednesday, Nov. 8, which is National First-Generation College Celebration Day, Dartmouth will host the keynote First-Gen at Dartmouth Community Celebration Dinner, attended by more than 30 first-generation and ally faculty and staff in addition to the first-gen student community. Delalue will be the keynote speaker, and the event will include performances by the Rockapellas. The dinner starts at 6 p.m. at Collis Common Ground, and sign-up is required.

The First-Generation Office supports more than 700 Dartmouth undergraduate students through three main initiatives, the First-Year Summer Enrichment Program, offered before the start of fall term and providing first-generation low-income students with academic skills training, tips on navigating higher education, and opportunities for community connection; the King Scholars Program, which provides four-year scholarships to international students from low-income backgrounds who are interested in going on to address social issues in their home countries; and the Prepare to Launch Program, designed to prepare first-generation students to navigate career, life, and scholarship opportunities during and after Dartmouth.

Williams was hired a year ago to set up the Prepare to Launch program, which now provides workshops, career coaching, resume tips, a clearing house of post-graduate opportunities, and a range of support to all first-generation students in conjunction with offices across Dartmouth such as the Center for Professional Development, Dartmouth for Life, and the Dean of Student Affairs.

“I’m working closely with the Center for Professional Development as well as Thayer Career Services to avoid what happened to me when I was a first-gen student, which was graduation day I didn’t have a job,” Williams says.

To the many supporters of the celebration, Williams says, “Thanks to your dedication and enthusiasm, we are able to provide our over 700 first-generation students with an impressive lineup of 16 incredibly awesome campus-wide activities. Each event is brimming with fun, sweetness, and joy, all thoughtfully curated to honor and celebrate their remarkable journeys as trailblazers in their families, pursuing a college education.”