McNair Scholars Association hosted First GEN First to commemorate TRiO programs

November 20, 2017

Nievita Watts, director, McNair Scholar Program, 319-273-7234,

Lindsay Cunningham, Office of University Relations, 319-273-2761,

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa -- On Nov. 8, the McNair Scholars Association hosted First GEN First, an event commemorating the anniversary of the birth of TRiO programs. TRiO programs assist first-generation students meet college graduation goals through preparation, advising and mentoring.

Many of the UNI personnel attending the event revealed they were also first-generation college students. Six first-generation McNair Scholars served as panelists for a question and answer session. The panelists included: Niria White (history), Joshua Prybil (chemistry), Andrew Jessip (global studies), Aarika Forney (political science), Ashley Sanchez (psychology and Spanish) and Jewels Howard (criminology). McNair Scholars Program director, Nievita Bueno Watts, served as moderator. The panelists discussed their experiences as first-generation college students at UNI.

Each panelist shared their unique perspectives and ideas, and some offered suggestions of additional ways faculty and staff could support first-generation students. Relationships with faculty members were key to their successes as first-generation students. Panelists recommended that faculty members identify first-generation students in their classes early on and make attempts to reach out and support these students as individuals. have Creating bilingual tour guides, materials printed in Spanish language and translators available during the application, admissions and orientation process to forge a more inclusive atmosphere for relatives who do not speak English fluently was also discussed. Dormitory floors or apartments dedicated to first-generation student occupancy could also create a support network.

For more information about the First GEN First event, contact Watts at 319-273-7234 or For more information about TRiO Programs, visit