Feb. 28, 2024

UCalgary celebrates inaugural First-Generation Networking Night

Students in First-in-Family Program find community and connection with peers, campus community and hear from 1st-generation groundbreakers
Panellists speaking at the inaugural First Generation Networking Night
Panellists speak at the inaugural First Generation Networking Night. Laura Wan

The University of Calgary proudly hosted its inaugural First-Generation Networking Night on Feb. 6, marking a significant milestone for UCalgary’s strategic plan, Ahead of Tomorrow, which includes increasing access to impactful and future-focused education. 

Students who are the first in their families to attend post-secondary education were invited to meet their peers, connect with esteemed leaders across UCalgary, and hear inspiring stories and advice from first-in-family alumni and staff. Among the attendees were Dr. Penny Werthner, interim provost and vice-president (academic), Dr. James Allan, vice-president (advancement), Dr. Malinda Smith, vice-provost (diversity,equity and inclusion), Verity Turpin, vice-provost (student experience), and Dr. Amy Dambrowitz, registrar. 

The evening featured a panel discussion in which UCalgary staff and alumni, who were themselves first-generation students, shared their experiences and a few words of advice. Among the panellists was Edwin Morales, associate director of student wellness services, who emphasized the importance of providing resources and guidance to first-generation students, likening their journey to forging a path through uncharted territory. 

"I kind of picture someone with a machete kind of cutting through the grass," he said. "There are no tracks, and you're making them yourself for the first time."

"There has been a lot of trial and error," says Muskaan Pamery, a second-year health and society major, highlighting the importance of mentorship and community for a first-generation student. "Because I’m the first person in my family to attend post-secondary, I didn’t really have anyone to look up to." 

Addressing barriers to education for future students

The First-Generation Networking Night is a key initiative of the First-in-Family and First-Generation Scholars programs, resulting from UCalgary's Ahead of Tomorrow strategy. The programs aim to increase access to impactful and future-focused education by breaking down the cultural, academic, financial, and informational barriers to university education. Students also have opportunities to access mentorship, a network of first-generation students, and specialized academic advising for first-generation students at UCalgary. 

Additionally, the newly introduced First-Generation Scholars Program provides financial support and comprehensive services for students who are the first in their family to attend university. Eligible students will receive $2,500 toward their first year of tuition, with applications now open for the fall of 2024. 

Verity Turpin highlighted the comprehensive support provided by the First-Generation Scholars Program, emphasizing the value of peer-to-peer programming in creating a sense of belonging. "In addition to financial support during a student's first term," she said, "the scholars will have access to support and programming that will assist them in learning about all things UCalgary."