Blazing the Trail: First Gen Alums and Students Celebrate Their Shared Experiences


Several years ago, many years after I earned my MBA (then the MPPM) at SOM and a career in investment banking, I made a major career transition to become a school and mental health counselor. My coursework and internship broadened the lens on some of the work I was doing with the AYA Board of Governors to engage alums and current students, in particular, the importance of the sense of belonging in a new academic and social community of college. For first generation and underserved students, the lack of exposure to and knowledge about navigating the way through the college experience, and then life after college, may make the concern about belonging more pronounced.

I wanted to support Yale’s first gen students and enhance their college experiences by connecting them with alums who could share the stories of their own experiences and provide insights and support by drawing from these experiences. Magda Vergara ’82, my friend and colleague on the AYA Board of Governors (and a founding YaleWomen Council member), shared my passion, and we worked together to make this vision a reality. The outcome: 1stGenYale, a Shared Identity Group (SIG) launched in 2016, which since then has hosted a variety of opportunities for first gen students and alums to come together. (Do you know that 16.6% of first-year students at Yale College – the Class of 2021 – self-identify as first gen?)  

Join students, alums, and faculty to “Connect. Share. Support.” at our inaugural conference, Blazing the Trail: Being the First, April 13-15, 2018, at Yale. Keynote speakers include Marta Moret ’84 MPH, president of Urban Policy Strategies, a New Haven-based consulting firm that conducts research and assessment in public health, Peggy Kuo ’85, magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York, and David A. Thomas ’78, ’86 PhD, president of Morehouse College.

We are especially proud of this outcome: net proceeds from the conference will be invested in the Yale College Dean’s Student Assistance Fund to provide for urgent or emergency needs, including such things as purchasing a winter coat, meals when the dining halls are closed, or a plane ticket home for a family emergency. 

In the words of a Yale woman alum from the Class of 2016: "Being a first generation student was a significant part of my identity at Yale. Over the course of my time in college, this aspect of my identity went from something I was not proud of to something I actively engaged in. Being a part of this new first-gen alum community has allowed me to further open up and engage and understand this part my college experience. I am so humbled to be a part of the inaugural efforts to strengthen this segment of the alum community!"

Please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected] if you have any questions or need additional information.

Lise Pfeiffer Chapman ’81 MBA is the immediate past chair of the AYA Board of Governors.

Pictured, from left to right: Lise Pfeiffer Chapman and Magda Vergara

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  • Veena McCoole
    published this page in Blog 2018-03-31 07:34:30 -0400