NIU celebrates first-generation students


Sean Reed

Two first-generation student events will be held in the Holmes Student Center on Nov. 7 and 9, 2022. (Sean Reed | Northern Star)

DeKALB – This week NIU will celebrate its first-generation Huskies with two events, a luncheon and fireside chat, focused on sharing their stories and gaining a network of support through the campus.

About 55 percent of NIU’s student populace are first generation students, said Jeffrey Salmon, director of the Center for Student Assistance.

“It is important the more people hear the stories of our first-gen students. There is that connection to being able to understand how to best support them on campus and help them be successful,” Salmon said. “That common humanity that’s shared via their story is understanding their identity as first gen students.”

The luncheon will be held at 1 p.m. on Nov. 7 in the Holmes Student Center Illinois Room, and will give students the opportunity to network with NIU faculty and staff who are first-generation college students. A panel discussion will also take place. Free box lunches prepared by dining services will be provided coming with a sandwich, chips, cookies and water. Vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options will be available.

The fireside chat will take place at 6 p.m. on Nov. 9 in the Holmes Student Center fireplace area where students, faculty and staff can share their experiences about being first generation students. Attendees will be given hot chocolate and cookies.

Both events are free and open to the public. Any and all are encouraged to attend, whether they are friends, family or someone who wants to show support to their first generation colleagues.

Both events are dated around Nov. 8, which is recognized as a day of celebration for first generation college students after Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Higher Education Act on Nov. 8, 1965.

The goal of the act was to give access to higher education to those in low-income and minority groups that was denied from them before, said Nichole Knutson, associate vice provost for student success.

“Many of our students and staff have worked so hard to get to where they are and wanted to provide an opportunity to celebrate them, share those stories and build a network of support for one another,” Knutson said.

Quovadis Nabors, a freshman theater major, recounts his own pressures of being a first-generation student.

“Most people think it’s hard – it’s harder. You have to be in a good place, mentally grounded,” Nabors said. “It’s hard to ask for help from people like me who are in the same (financial) situation.”

A banner for first generation students to sign will also be at both events and in the Oasis Lounge of the Holmes Student Center throughout the week.

“We hope this is the first of many November 8ths in the future and becomes ingrained in the culture of the university,” Salmon said. “Year after year they know this week is when we come together and celebrate our first gen students.”

The two events are organized by Student Assistance in collaboration with the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost; Huskie Academic Support Center; Student Financial Advising Services; McKinley Deacon Davis CHANCE Program; University Honors Program; TRIO; Housing and Residential Services; and the office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.