First-Gen Day

RWU is formally celebrating all of our students, faculty, staff, and alumni who identify – or identified – as first-generation college students, with our second annual First-Gen Day Celebration: Tuesday, November 8, 2022.

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

This 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.

Schedule of Events

image of Intercultural Center team celebrating First Gen Day

RWU Bristol Celebration November 8, 2022

Pick Up a First Gen Pin or Sticker

9:00-12:00 p.m.

  • Rec Center: Athletics Suite 
  • SPLO 
  • Admissions/ Alumni Building: Lobby 
  • Library 2nd Floor – CSAS Front Desk 
  • Intercultural Center: Main Floor 
  • QTRAC – Common Lounge 
  • Student Life Office Lobby 
  • School of Law – Career Development Suite 175 
  • Providence Campus: 1st Floor Lobby 

The First-Gen Experience: RWU Students Share Their Stories

2:00-2:55 p.m. | Virtual 

Join Via Zoom

Meeting ID: 957 9347 9066
Passcode: 161371
+16469313860,,95793479066# US
+13017158592,,95793479066# US (Washington DC)

Providence Campus Simulcast Option in Room 346 from 2:00pm-3:00pm and 4:15pm-5:15pm

Madison Dixon headshotMadison Dixon ‘25

Madison Dixon ‘25 is a music major and educational studies minor from Roselle, NJ. Currently, She is the Public Relations Chair of the Multicultural Student Union and a member of the Women of Color Club. She loves listening to music, laughing with her friends and enjoying nature. 


Michaela Conley headshotMichaela Conley ’24

Michaela Conley '24 is from Middletown, RI and currently lives in Newport, RI. As a first-generation college student, she graduated from the University of San Diego with a bachelor's degree in International Relations. Prior to starting law school, Michaela worked at a law firm in Providence, RI, specializing in veterans' benefits. At Roger Williams University School of Law, Michaela is a member of the Honors Program and Association for Public Interest Law, a staff editor for Law Review, and a board member of Moot Court. Michaela is also a Contracts teaching assistant for Professor Susan Heyman and a Torts teaching assistant for Professor David Logan. After her first year of law school, Michaela was a judicial intern at the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. In her free time, Michaela loves to garden, go to concerts, and attend Boston sports games. 

Waldino Joseph headshotWaldino Joseph ‘25

Waldino Joseph ‘25 is a sophomore Engineering major with a potential Math minor. He is from Stamford, CT. Waldino currently serves as the Vice President for the Multicultural Student Union and a math tutor in the Tutoring Center. His main interests and hobbies outside of work and school include being physically active through playing lacrosse or basketball.

Co-sponsors: RWU's Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion & the Office of  Enrollment Management  

Equitea: The Chosen One: A First-Generation Ivy League Odyssey by Echo Brown

Book Cover of The Chosen One showing a young Black woman standing in front of ivy covered bricks3:00-4:00 p.m. | Mary Tefft White 

RWU's Equitea Book & Media Club is an opportunity for students, staff, faculty, and alumni to connect, learn and engage. We invite you to explore the selected tea during the weeks leading up to our community event, or you can simply join us for the discussion. 

Co-sponsors: RWU's Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion & the University Libraries 

First-Gen Alum Panel Discussion 

4:15-5:15 p.m. | Mary Tefft White 

Providence Campus Simulcast Option in Room 346 from 2:00pm-3:00pm and 4:15pm-5:15pm

Alums reflect on their first-gen experience at RWU and share advice with current Hawks. 

Theresa Agonia headshotTheresa Agonia ‘13

Theresa Agonia ’13 was born and raised in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Growing up in a bilingual home as a dual citizen of the United States and Portugal, she grew up involved in opportunities to support Portuguese traditions. She became the first member of her family to graduate from college in 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Communications from Roger Williams University. During her time at RWU, Theresa was actively involved with the RWU Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA), acquired several internships, served as an assistant account executive for the 2012-2013 National Bateman competition team, and was a mentor-tutor for high school students with the Bridge to Success program. She currently serves as Chief of External Affairs for Mayor Jorge Elorza in the Capital City of Providence, Rhode Island. Theresa is also on the Providence Performing Arts Center Board of Directors, R.I.S.E. Women's Leadership Conference Advisory Council, co-founder of the Central Falls Alumni Association, and Vice-President of the Roger Williams University Alumni Association. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, booking photoshoots as a freelance model and frequenting Scott's Fitness to lead a healthy lifestyle. 

Sandra Seals headshotSandra Seals ‘17

Sandra Seals ‘17 is from the South Side of Chicago, IL. She gained a bachelors from Salem State University and majored in Political Science while minoring in Criminal Justice. Sandra received a post-bachelor certificate at RWU in paralegal/legal studies. She currently works in the Department of Navy as a Library Acquisition Clerk. In her free time, Sandra enjoys camping, taking her son to the movies, and visiting the Polar Express annually. 

Omar Reyes headshotOmar Reyes ‘11

Omar Reyes ‘11 is the Director of Adult Programs and Policies at the Rhode Island Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner, where he oversees the RI Reconnect program, which support non-traditional students in higher education and short-term workforce trainings. He earned a BA in English Literature at Roger Williams University and an MA in Youth Development at Rhode Island College. 

Paul Lavallee headshotPaul Lavallee ‘76

Paul Lavallee (RWU ‘76 BSA, PC MBA ) has more than 40 years of entrepreneurial leadership experience with successful software industry ventures and sustainable non profits. Paul founded VentureFuel, Advanced Systems Engineering and Effective Management Systems East and was a key executive board advisor involved with several initial public offerings including: System Software Associates, EMS, Eyretel, Firepond and Prime Response. As a volunteer he is on the advisory board of the Gabelli School of Business at Roger Williams University.  

Paul is also a founding board member and investor in Herren Wellness and Newfound Recovery and was founding chair of Webster Place Recovery Center. He has also served as board member of several non profits.  

Paul is an investor and board member but mostly retired enjoying the gift of quality time with his family and living a healthy lifestyle. Paul is also a 6th degree black belt in Te Combat Kuntao Ju Jitsu and a Lakan Guru in iKali & Pekiti Tirsia Kali. 

Co-sponsors: RWU's Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion & the Office of Alumni Relations 

First-Gen: President's Networking Reception

5:30-7:00 p.m. | GHH

This celebratory event is open to the entire RWU community. Enjoy giveaways, refreshments, and networking opportunities.  

*T-Shirt Giveaway Opportunity at the Reception 

Kindly RSVP by November 6 or 401-254-3166 

Please include requests for any special assistance needed to attend the reception.

Co-sponsors: The President’s Office, RWU School of Law & RWU’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion  

RWU Providence Celebration November 9, 2022

UC First-Gen Pep Rally 

5:00-7:00 p.m. | UC Lobby

Stop by for giveaways, refreshments, and the RWU first-gen photo booth. 

Co-sponsors: University College & RWU’s Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion 

Providence Campus First-Gen Meet & Greet

Wednesday, Nov. 3, 4 to 6:30pm | UC 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! 

Pick Up First Gen Pins & Stickers image of pin celebrating First-Gen students, alums, faculty & staff

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

  • 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

noon-12:55pm | 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.

image of student speaking on a panel during RWU


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

First-Gen Alumni Panel (Session A) 

1:00-1:55 pm | Virtual 
Alums reflect on their first-gen experience at RWU and share advice with current Hawks.

Watch: Alumni Panel Video, Transcript

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)

1:00-1:55 pm | 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) 

2:00-2:55pm | 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) 

2:00-2:55pm | Library Instructional Lab 
Learn about mental health resources with the Counseling Center.

First-Gen Faculty & Staff Panel 

3:00-3:55 pm | 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 Kishbaugh
Dr. 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

First-Gen RWU Professor Angela Chang

Angela Chang is a native of Hong Kong. Having grown up in Miami, she now calls Boston and the South Coast of Massachusetts image of First-Gen RWU Professor Angela Changher home. She identifies as a mother, an artist, designer, and entrepreneur. She believes that her first generation experience allows her to think innovatively. She values her Asian heritage and enjoys thinking about how her relatives in China might find situations in America. Her awareness of cultural differences to guide her in ensuring her work embodies her values. Her work aims to echo traditional Asian values, such as honoring family and elders, promoting family storytelling, and valuing presence in interpersonal relationships. She works at, and builds apps that help parents empower parents to teach their children in early literacy. She also edits a zine, Taper, that publishes digital poetry and does consulting on design engineering projects relating to electronic textiles. 

Reflecting on her first-generation experience she says, "I wanted to share what I was learning at college with my family, but it was very hard for them to understand the demands and depth of my commitment to doing well. It was great to hear their voice over the phone, because everything was even more foreign than when we immigrated. Also, I was alone, without the comfort of home cooking. However, it was easier for me to spend more time studying and experimenting with different intellectual pursuits because I did not have to work at my parent's restaurant. Now that I've graduated, I want to share the knowledge that I have gained with my family and friends at home because they were unable to go with me to college. However, I can bring back what I've learned to them by making sure I speak up and share what I know".

First-Gen Day Community Photo 

4:00-4:25 pm | Quad
Join us on the Quad to take a community picture to commemorate the day.

President’s Reception 

4:30-5:30pm | GHH Atrium 

image of RWU President Miaoulis and students talking during the First Gen President's Reception