UISG to fund second ‘I’m the First’ First-Generation summit

UISG decided on Feb. 12 to fund the First Generation Summit, an event aimed at creating conversation about the experience of first-generation students.


Grace Colton

UISG members debate legislature at a meeting in the Iowa Memorial Union on Tuesday February 12 2019. (Grace Colton/ The Daily Iowan)

Rylee Wilson, News Reporter

UISG backs the UI’s second First-Generation Summit on Feb. 12, with 38 members voting yes and seven no. Two abstained.

The summit supports first-generation students at the University of Iowa through speakers, breakout sessions, networking opportunities, and recognition for graduating firstgen students.

The summit was funded from UISG’s contingency fund, money that has rolled over from previous years. The fund has more than $300,000; it needs to have between $60,000 and $120,000 by the end of the academic year.

UISG also allocated an additional $22,000 from contingency to the University Lecture Committee and allocated $7,600 to purchase additional sound equipment for student organizations at the IMU.

The summit will move from the Second-Floor Ballroom to the Main Lounge. The capacity will expand from 250 to 300 in attendance, with keynote speakers Yolanda Norman and Donovan Livingston.

Alexia Sánchez, the UISG Student Life Committee chair, said UISG wants to broaden backing for the event in the future, with less of the burden of funding falling on UISG. Currently, 85 to 90 percent of funding for the event comes from the group.

“The idea goal is for the whole event to be institutionalized. A really great way we are able to that is through funding,” Sánchez said. “I think that’s a really great start to where it could go. The Office of the Vice President and of the President are both very interested and invested in the summit. It is part of the conversations they’re having. Even though it is in student government’s sphere right now, there is potential for a lot of collaboration in the future.”

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The event has received grant funding from the Center for Student Involvement and Leadership and is seeking funding from other areas. UISG Director of Finance Noel Mills said securing outside grant funding could be challenge for the organization.

“We looked very heavily to grants outside the university, but we don’t operate as a nonprofit — it’s very hard to get grants when you don’t operate as a nonprofit,” Mills said.

Currently, around 1 in 4 UI undergraduates identify as first-generation students, with 21 percent of the incoming fall 2018 class identifying as first-generation.

Sánchez said the increase in first-generation student enrollment points to increasing access to higher education.

“More and more people and more and more families are getting access to higher education,” she said. “The first-gen task force was created a while back to strengthen outreach and support at [the UI].”

Tristan Schmidt, the UISG director of academic affairs, said events such as the summit are essential in supporting first-generation students.

“When we did it last year, it was the first time [the summit] was offered in Iowa. No other regent school offers something like this,” Schmidt said. “First-gen students make up about one-fifth to one-fourth of an undergraduate class, and this is really important to those students. Those students have various background identities, and sometimes it’s hard to shape what that experience on campus is like. To provide a space to bring people to share that experience is required in order for students to feel as if they’re being supported on campus.”