First-at-LAS aims to support first-generation students

By Marisol Mastrangelo

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) recently launched First-at-LAS, a new academic support program for first-generation college students. The program is the result of growing first-gen enrollment and long-standing efforts by the college to design programs and initiatives that support this student population.

Currently, 34% of all LAS undergraduates self-identify as first-generation college students — students with neither a parent nor a guardian having earned a four-year degree from a U.S. college.

“One of the things that we are trying to work on is providing students with tools for how to build a network of resources, so whether they have a curiosity, an interest or a need, there is a network within the college and across the university that can really help them fulfill what they are here for,” said Rosilie Hernandez, program director and LAS associate dean for student academic affairs.

Nationally, research has shown that first-gen college students are more likely to encounter personal, financial and academic hardships that can make the college experience difficult to navigate. The program will counter this narrative by working closely with LAS faculty and staff to raise awareness and build community around the first-gen experience, offer programs that allow students to build a campus support network, and provide access to resources and opportunities that will enhance the academic experience.

“The perspectives and life experiences of first-generation college students enrich the diversity and culture of our campus and our classrooms,” said Astrida Orle Tantillo, dean of the college of liberal arts and sciences. “We would like students to know that there is an entire community of people in LAS, including faculty, advisors and staff who are here to guide them through their UIC experience.”

First-at-LAS programming includes a “Tell Me Your Story” campaign that uses first-gen storytelling (of faculty, staff, students, etc.) to foster connection and dialogue around the first-gen college experience. The program also hopes to continue to strengthen students’ ties to faculty through a First-Gen Student Mentorship Cluster, which will match groups of students with faculty mentors in the same subject areas for academic and professional support. Future plans include the creation of a First-Gen Student Board, which will allow students to join the conversation and create events and workshops with first-gen students in mind.

If you are interested in sharing your story as a first-generation college student or want to collaborate with First-at-LAS, please contact the program at To learn more, visit the First-at-LAS website:

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