Second annual first-generation, low-income week addresses inequality, student experiences
Alysa Guffey | Monday, March 29, 2021
For its second annual first-generation, low-income (FLI) student week, the Office of Student Enrichment hosted a variety of events to both highlight the experience of these students at Notre Dame and educate others.
This year, the week featured mainly virtual events and touched on a variety of topics that are informational not only to first-generation and low-income students but also to the whole community, director of student enrichment Consuela Howell said.
Social justice was also at the center of the week’s lineup, Howell said.
“We didn’t have a specific theme,” Howell said. “However, given many of the things that were going on in the country as it related to social justice and really a focus on different types of inequalities, we felt we wanted to touch on that in some way.”
Professor Dom Chaloner hosted a discussion Monday on environmental inequities, a topic Howell said students had suggested in previous years.
“We have had students who have mentioned or suggested [environmental inequities] in the past anyway, and it did seem like a good time to set that up in and we were excited to have it be a part of FLI week,” Howell said.
Another topic Howell said students were heavily interested in learning more about was investments, leading to the office of student enrichment reaching out to finance professor Carl Ackermann to lead a workshop entitled “Real World Whatever: Investing” Tuesday over Zoom.
In his virtual talk, Ackermann spoke about the basics of investing, mentioning two ways people primarily invest: stocks and bonds.
“The way a bond usually works is this, right, a company goes out and borrows a certain amount of money from an investor. During the life of the bond the company promises to pay regular interest payments to that investor,” Ackermann said. “But now, if you instead hold stock in a company, right, you actually have ownership in that company and after the bondholders are paid their promised amount.”
Ackermann also informed students about different types of retirement plans they might have in their careers and how to have the best outcomes whether an employee has a 401(k) or a 403(b).
FLI week finished with a “words of encouragement” day on Friday, when uplifting messages from alumni and other members of the community were shared on social media throughout the day. Assistant director of student enrichment Robyn Centilli said the messages were meant to address FLI students’ feelings of “imposter syndrome.”
“One of the biggest things that our population really suffers from is imposter syndrome and thinking that they’re here by luck and not because of the hard work and dedication and perseverance and grit that they all have,” Centilli said.
Outside of hosting events such as FLI week, Howell said the Office of Student Enrichment’s role in serving students is threefold: providing tangible resources, hosting programming for the community and advocating on behalf of students to professors and faculty.
“I think that’s the biggest aspect of what we do and what we hope to do is to provide community for our first-gen [and] low-income students,” Howell said.
Howell said about 10% of the undergraduate student body at Notre Dame is low-income, as defined by the Office of Financial Aid. She also said defining students as low-income is “out of the purview” of her role in student enrichment.
“We don’t have access to any student’s financial aid information, and I think that’s important for everyone to know and for the community to know that there’s definitely still that confidentiality,” Howell said.
However, the Office of Student Enrichment does not have solid numbers on the number of first-generation students at the University, making it somewhat challenging to connect with these students.
“We’re working very hard in partnership with admissions and the Registrar’s office to be able to capture that information in the future,” Howell said, “So right now, it’s just kind of based on students who connect with us and knowing that we have a first-gen population.”
Centilli said she feels working in the Office of Student Enrichment and seeing her colleagues put on events such as FLI week is especially rewarding as everyone in the office experienced being a first-gen or resource-limited student in college.
“Being able to see how I can utilize my own experience to help uplift our student population is really great, but then we work with some of the most amazing students on campus and I like just watching them thrive and become empowered,” Centilli said.