First-Generation Students to be Lauded During Weeklong Celebration

Both in-person and virtual activities set for campus observance

First-generation Ole Miss students practice social distancing during an informal get-together in the Grove. Submitted photo

OXFORD, Miss. – The academic achievements of first-generation students at the University of Mississippi will be celebrated in a series of in-person and virtual activities planned for Nov. 2-6.

First-Generation Student Celebration Week is co-sponsored by the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College’s First-Generation Student Network and the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience’s StudentsFIRST program, with additional support from the Office of the Provost.

The week precedes the annual National First-Generation College Celebration on Nov. 8.

Scheduled events include:

  • Nov. 2, 9-10 a.m. – Kickoff breakfast in the Grove with university leadership
  • Nov. 4, 4 p.m. – Virtual keynote address by 2019 alumnus Jarvis Benson
  • Nov. 5, 5 p.m. – Virtual screening of the documentary “Walk a Mile in My Shoes”
  • Nov. 6, noon – Virtual panel discussion and raffle

“I hope that this event will serve as a way to create a sense of community for first-gen students across campus,” said Ainsley Ash, a senior public policy leadership major from Meridian and founder of the First-Generation Student Network. “We also seek to draw attention to the specific needs and institutional best practices that can be adopted to support this demographic.”

In honor of last year’s National First-Generation College Celebration, Ash wrote an opinion piece for The Daily Mississippian, the Ole Miss student newspaper.

“My intent was sharing my experiences as a first-gen student and encouraging other first-gen students to take up space and really make this university theirs,” she said. “It has been a year since I wrote this op-ed, and I am proud that I have led the charge for the inaugural campuswide first-gen celebration.”

First-generation students often come from families and environments where higher education might not a priority or family members who did not attend college themselves simply aren’t able to provide needed guidance. The aim of the StudentsFIRST program is give first-generation students the academic and social support they need to be successful at the university.

This is the second year the university has observed the national celebration.

“Being the first people from their families to attend college, many of our students are great examples of resiliency,” said Michael Smith, academic adviser at the Center for Student Success and First-Year Experience and StudentsFIRST program coordinator. “They have to be highly motivated to face the challenges ahead of them.”

Some 20 students are participating in the StudentsFIRST section of EDHE 105: Freshman Year Experience course. The program aims to get more students connected to one other and to various campus resources.

Additionally, peer mentors are available to assist first-generation college students in coordination with the Center for Inclusion and Cross-Cultural Engagement.

To participate in First-Generation Celebration Week virtual activities on Zoom, visit The meeting ID number is 958 9453 5504 and the passcode is 715732.

For more about First-Generation Celebration Day, click here.