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First Gen Conference Engages Students, Faculty and Staff

A palpable energy filled the Gould Auditorium on Friday, April 5th. Here, a diverse group of first-generation students and faculty gathered for First-Gen Con, an annual conference by and for first-generation students co-hosted by the University of Utah’s Center for First Generation Success and the Marriott Library.

The keynote address was delivered by Robert “RoJo” Johnson, a career coach at the University of Utah and a first-generation student himself. He shared his personal experiences navigating higher education, the value of family support and his career in the NFL. Following RoJo’s talk, a panel discussion with faculty members offered insights on empowering first-generation students for academic success. The day continued with sessions covering a range of topics, such as personal student narratives, research, mentorship, mental health and wellness.

Lux Darkbloom, the embedded librarian for the First-Gen Scholars program and conference organizer, is proud to see the conference grow since it began in 2019. “First-Gen Con is such a beautiful event. It’s a space where students can really share their stories and what their journeys at the U have been like. It’s a two-way street, too, because the feedback they give helps us make sure that the resources and support we offer are on point for what they actually need. First-Gen Con invites students be heard loud and clear. They get to define what it means to be a first-generation college student. By showing up and participating, they’re able to shape how the U supports first-gen students right now and in the future.”

(Left to Right) Linda Paternina -Serrano, associate director, First-gen Programs, Robert Johnson (RoJo), career coach, U Career Success and Lux Darkbloom, associate librarian, liaison to First-Gen Scholars Program
Conference organizers pose for a quick photo before the conference began.

“First Gen Con is a space where we celebrate all the incredible first-gen individuals on campus who are breaking barriers and paving the way for themselves and future generations,” explains Linda Paternina-Serrano, associate director, First-gen Programs. “This conference is all about sharing stories, best practices, making connections, engaging in meaningful discussions, but most importantly, to dream big together. We reaffirm our commitment to fostering an environment where every individual, regardless of their background or circumstances, can thrive and succeed here at the University of Utah. So, cheers to our first-gen community for breaking stereotypes, rewriting our stories and owning every step of this incredible journey!”

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