First Generation Day

RWU is formally celebrating all of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni who identify – or identified – as first-generation college students, with our inaugural First Generation Day Celebration on Thursday, November 4th.

'First Gen' describes students, faculty, staff and alums whose parents do not have a college degree.

image of pin celebrating First-Gen students, alums, faculty & staffThis celebration day will provide an array of professional development and learning opportunities for first-generation learners throughout our community, and celebrate their contributions to RWU and beyond.


First Generation College Day is celebrated in early November to mark the Nov. 8 anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Higher Education Act of 1965, which, like other landmark legislation of its era, sought to level the playing field for Americans from minoritized and low-income backgrounds.

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Inaugural First Generation Celebration Schedule

Wednesday, Nov. 3, 4 to 6:30pm

  • Providence Campus First-Gen Meet & Greet 
    First Floor Lobby
    RWU Vice President for Equity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer Stephanie Akunvabey welcomes and celebrates Providence Campus-based First-Gen students, faculty, staff and partners. Dean Bianco invites everyone to stop by and say hello! 

Thursday, Nov. 4, 9:30-11:30am

  • Pick Up First Gen Pins & Stickers 

    Library first floor: MediaTech Help Desk
    Library second floor: CSAS Front Desk
    Admissions & Alumni Building: Lobby
    Rec Center: Athletics Suite
    Intercultural Center: MPR Room
    School of Law: Suite 175
    Providence Campus: First floor lobby

Kickoff Event


  • RWU Student Panel
    Location: Mary Teftt White Room
    Current RWU Students share their experiences as first-generation students. We hear all the perspectives of undergraduate students, graduate students, a law student, and a student from the UC campus. Panelists:

DorothyDorothy Batcher was born and raised by a single mom in rural Illinois.  She attended University of South Florida for her undergraduate degree, earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science and graduating with honors. Dorothy worked full-time throughout her undergraduate degree, supporting herself throughout. Both her mom and her dad were diagnosed with cancer after growing up in an area that was exposed to large amounts of toxins from nearby industries.  Her dad died of cancer when he was thirty-three, and she was two.  Her goal upon graduating from Roger Williams University School of Law is to advocate for those like her parents, poisoned by industries with no one to advocate for them because they could not afford an attorney. Currently, Dorothy is a second-year law student at RWU working on an initiative by the American Bar Association that is helping connect the legally underserved populations to access much needed legal resources. She is encouraged by how many resources there are for students at RWU law to help them succeed.  As a first-generation law student, this has been invaluable to Dorothy.

JesahiasJesahias Quiroa is the oldest son of two Guatemalan parents who came to the United States in the 1980s, who also now has a little brother who plans on attending college later on in life. He is the first to not only graduate from high school in his hometown of Cranston, Rhode Island at Cranston High School East but also now attends university at Roger Williams University. He is studying Legal Studies and Political Science, is now serving as the President of the Multicultural Student Union (MSU), and holds positions both as an Admissions Ambassador/Tour Guide and in the Financial Aid office as a Work-Study student. 

Samantha GallionSam Gallion is a first-year graduate student at Roger Williams University in the Forensic Mental Health Counseling program. She is the first in her family to go and successfully complete college, and with it has come amazing opportunities in both her undergraduate and graduate programs. Sam is from Marion, Ohio and completed her undergraduate degree at Florida Institute of Technology. In her undergraduate career, she held multiple leadership positions, won awards in both academic and social environments, and hopes to continue this in her graduate experiences. 

ArronArron Serrano is a Sophomore from New York City. He studies business and is leaning towards Accounting. He participates in the Barbershop - a club that to promote community engagement and activity amongst the men of color on RWUs campus. He is also a member of the Pathway to Purpose program (P2P), intended to be a transformative higher education experience to high-performing students.

Afternoon Sessions

1:00-1:55 pm

  • First Gen Alumni Panel (Session A) 
    Location: Virtual 
    Alums reflect on their first-gen experience at RWU and share advice with current Hawks.

    Register for Alumni Panel

MelissaMelissa Husband '00 Having a natural affinity for public service, Melissa Husband designed her education around policy, nonprofit management, effective leadership and public administration. She holds a B.A. in Political Science from RWU and a Master of Public Administration from URI. Melissa served as Executive Director of Community Action Partnership of Providence, an anti-poverty social service organization. Melissa taught Nonprofit Management as an Adjunct Professor at RWU. Currently as Deputy Secretary of State/Director of Administration, Melissa provides leadership across the RI Department of State and oversees the operations of Elections; Business Services; State Archives, Library & Public Information; and Finance and Personnel.

  • Career Preparation for Hawks (Session B)
    Location: Mary Teftt White Room 
    Join the Center for Career and Professional Development for an overview of Career Preparation strategies and resources. This presentation will include information about Networking and Mentorship, Career Exploration, and creating your Personal Brand.


  • First-Gen Resources with CSAS (Session A) 
    Location: Mary Teftt White Room
    • Student Accessiblilty Services (SAS) will be conducting an overview of services, disability awareness, minimizing the stigma, and holding a question-and-answer portion of the session. 
    • The Tutoring Center will offer an overview and an engaging role-playing experience. 
    • Advising & Peer Mentorship: Join Advising & Peer Mentorship for a fun and interactive session! Play “College Readiness Bingo” to learn RWU academic success tips and interesting facts & advice from famous first-generation college student pioneers.
  • First-Gen & Counseling (Session B) 
    Location: Library Instructional Lab 
    Learn about mental health resources with the Counseling Center.

3:00-3:55 pm

  • First-Gen Faculty & Staff Panel 
    Location: Mary Tefft White Room 
    Faculty and staff will share their first-gen stories, how this identity impacted their lives and give advice to current first-gen students. The panelists and their bios are below:

image of SECCM Dean Rob GriffinRob Griffin became Dean of the School of Engineering, Computing and Construction management on July 1, 2021.  After growing up in Bourne, Massachusetts, he studied chemical engineering at Tufts University. He was a research associate at Arthur D. Little, Inc., for two years.  Griffin then received his PhD in chemical engineering from the California Institute of Technology.  Prior to RWU, he spent 21 years in various faculty and administrative roles at other institutions of higher education.  

image of Katherine ZImmerman

Kathryn Zimmerman is a first-generation graduate student, from Leominster, Massachusetts, who works at Roger Williams University as the Assistant Director of Student Accessibility Services. She has earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education from Fitchburg State University, Master of Education in Higher Education Administration from Northeastern University, and is currently a Doctorate of Education Candidate studying at Northeastern University. 

image of Dr. Justin KishbaughDr. Justin Kishbaugh is the Director of the Writing Center, the Associate Director of Academic Success, and a Professor of Writing at Roger Williams University School of Law. He is a summa cum laude graduate from King’s College with a B.A. in English Literature and holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa University and a Ph.D. in English Literature from Duquesne University. He is also a Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce housed at RWU Law and loves working with students on their writing. If he could invite five people to dinner—living or dead—they would be Allen Iverson, the Notorious B.I.G., Keith Richards, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein. 

4:00-4:25 pm

  • First-Gen Day Community Photo 
    Location: Quad
    Join us on the Quad to take a community picture to commemorate the day.