Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


FAU’s first-generation office implements new program benefitting alumni

FAU’s Academic Advising Services and the Office of First-Generation Student Success provide support and reassurance to first-generation students.
Courtesy of Jennifer Parra
First Generation Students

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to properly reflect the First and Proud Alumni Network’s involvement in the new alumni program.

New alumni program

The First and Proud Alumni Network, affiliated with the Student Alumni Association, is working together with the Office of First-Generation Student Success to implement a mentorship program that will help out all first-generation juniors and seniors. The Alumni Association runs the mentorship program. 

In addition to creating awareness for all FAU alumni, the Alumni Association contributes to the growth of FAU traditions and spirit on campus. SAA General, PrOWLErs, and University Ambassadors are the three branches of the organization founded in 2006. 

In 2018, FAU established the First and Proud Alumni Network. They aim to foster academic success and personal growth at FAU. Both alumni networks hope to accomplish this with FAU’s first-generation future alumni. In addition to that, they also discuss what it means to be a first-generation student. 

“The partnership with the Alumni Association consists of the First and Proud Alumni Network. The goal of the network is to connect current FAU students, (juniors and seniors) with FAU Alumni who are in their field of study to be mentored and coached in how to begin and succeed in each of their careers,” wrote Associate Director of the First-Generation Student Success Office, Jennifer Parra in an email to the UP.

Therefore, a mentoring program will be offered by the Alumni Mentoring Program and the First and Proud Alumni Network that will assist first-generation juniors and seniors with navigating their future career goals. As a result of this program, first-generation students will gain confidence when making crucial life changes. With the Alumni Association and First and Proud Alumni Network Program, they hope to build life-long connections and give career insight to those students. 

FAU’s advisors and mentors all aim to know who their first-generation students are equally. They want to be there with those students discussing those important life decisions with the students to ensure that they are being well-cared for.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies for UAS, Joseph Murray for 10 years now emphasizes this claim by saying, “On a national stage, I am making sure that important conversations are happening across the country about who our first-generation students are, what they need and how we can support them.”

“I’m incredibly proud of how this institution supports students in general, and I think for students in particular first-generation students, I think that is a point of pride for us. Especially when we are talking about the size of the institution. You have to work really hard to not engage and tell us what’s going on,” says Murray.

University rankings improve

The population of first-generation students is larger than it has ever been before. Murray said that FAU will have the highest freshmen-to-sophomore retention rate in the university’s history this year – at about 84%, and many of those students are first-generation students. The reason why Murray believes they have increased retention rates of freshmen and sophomore students is because students are starting to see that they will be well supported, and they feel safe. This is especially important when it comes to those first-generation students. 

“Florida Atlantic is the most diverse student body in the state of Florida, and two-thirds of those students are first-gen, and the reason they keep coming to FAU is because they feel that we will provide the best support services for them to help get them over that hump,” said Murray. 

Statistics show FAU is currently at No. 50 in the nation for graduates with the least debt and No. 61 for campus ethnic diversity. US News and Report rankings have gone up 19 spots to 121 in the country. The university also went from No. 41 to No. 26 in the “Social Mobility” ranking, which includes both public and private universities. 

The First-Generations Office’s impact on the First-Generation community

Students commonly visit the first-generation office to brainstorm ideas with staff members and to update mentors and advisors on their personal and professional projects, according to Parra, who has worked at the office since 2021. They also provide extensive and positive coaching services in time management, networking, and on how to build meaningful relationships with the staff, professors, and other first-generation students.

“The importance of coaching cannot be overstated for all students’ success. The safety net needs to be effectively built around them, so that they can be supported. Students, particularly first-generation students, do not always have this type of safety net from their parents or guardians,” said Murray.

Suron Draden, a senior at FAU majoring in social work and minoring in criminal justice, and recipient of the Kelly/Strul Scholarship Program for Emerging Scholars, states she is very grateful for the help she has received from the first-generation office and the Kelly/Strul Program. She began her education at FAU in 2021 and is graduating in December. 

Draden is originally from Los Angeles but moved with her family to Port Charlotte, Fla. She eventually decided that FAU was the university for her to achieve her goals, so she applied. Once she got admitted to the university, she moved to Boca Raton. 

“I was really sheltered, and I had just moved from a small town to Boca Raton, and I was living on campus. With the support from the First-Generation Student Success Office. They were able to help me in paying for my housing, books, and all of my tuition expenses. They even provided me with meals. I didn’t have to worry about anything. And that was so huge,” said Draden.

She says the first-generation office makes it so that students can have a safe, supported, and memorable college experience, and that’s why he feels the organization is so great.

“I don’t want to learn things the hard way. I want my education experience to be a safe and memorable experience. The First-Generation Office is able to provide the stepping stones I need to achieve greatness,” Draden said. 

The office provides extensive care and attention to their first-generation students. This organization furnishes academic advisors, career consultants, academic coaches, and financial aid counselors for those overwhelming aspects of college education.

“Our network of colleagues help our first-generation students stay connected to all campus resources, as well as the continuation of fostering a sense of belonging and increasing health and wellness amongst our students. We also work on eliminating all barriers that may prevent a successful transition into college, from the point of orientation to graduation within all their four years,” said Parra.

Upcoming campus events

First and Proud Week starts on November 8. Programming planned for that period includes a pool party open to all students, a workshop for pre-med students, and a networking brunch. The Office of First-Generation Student Success prioritizes community outreach programs and events for students to involve themselves and grow in their personal development throughout their four-year education.

“They are really big on creating community for people, and just doing all they can to help the next generation of first-gen students be better than they were when they first got here by giving students all the resources they need. It’s truly amazing!” said Draden. 

Anyone interested can find their office in the Student Union building on the second floor (Room 204) of the Student Union on the Boca Raton Campus.

For more information, students are encouraged to contact any advisors or mentors in person at the office, by email, or on Instagram.

Shianna Campanelli is a contributing writer for the University Press. For more information on this story or others, email her at [email protected] or on Instagram @shianna_campanelli. 

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