by Jenay Solomon, Undergraduate Engagement Librarian, UI Libraries
Celebrating student accomplishments and getting to showcase all the amazing services and resources the UI libraries provide for students is always a great thing to do. Even on a Saturday!
Earlier this spring on a beautiful sunny Saturday, I spent the day at the 2nd Annual “I’m the First” First-Generation Summit celebrating the experiences and accomplishments of first-generation college students at Iowa. The Summit is entirely student-led and coordinated by the UI Student Government, who also provide the majority of funding. UISG did an amazing job at making the entire event very student-focused, while also encouraging networking and conversation among students, staff, and faculty.
The day began with a panel of first-generation students moderated by Dr. Melissa Shivers, VP for Student Life, who is herself first-generation, where they discussed challenges of being first-gen at Iowa, while also reminding attendees of the many strengths and talents being first-gen also brings. The day continued with breakout sessions, and two fabulous keynote speakers who spoke about their own experiences being a first-gen and a continuing college student.
During the afternoon “task force town-hall” session, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel with six other staff across campus in the departments of Academic Support & Retention, Academic Advising, TRiO Student Support Services, English as a Second Language, and University Counseling Service. Each of us discussed our roles in our departments and the different ways we reach out to first-gen students. It was interesting and informative listening to the others discuss their services and the various ways they reach out to students and first-gen in particular. Though we each came from different backgrounds and had distinct roles on campus, we all had commonalities when it came to caring about student success and empowering students to reach their potential.
When it came time for me to speak, I decided to showcase all the ways the Libraries provide support for students, through instruction, research consultations, our collections, and spaces. As the Undergraduate Engagement librarian, I shamelessly promoted services in The SEAM, spoke about the importance of offering flexible late night and drop-in research help for students who have different needs, crazy schedules, and who no longer fit the “traditional” mold of what a first-year student looks like. I stressed the importance of the how we all, as library staff, work hard to create a safe, comfortable, and judgment-free zone at the Libraries, whether that’s through our collections, our physical spaces, or our public outreach. I also took the opportunity to remind the students it’s our job to answer questions and help them find the information they need – so don’t be shy!
I’m hopeful we can continue being a part of the First-Generation Summit and I would encourage anyone, whatever role you’re in, to attend or present in next year’s 3rd annual summit. As librarians and library staff, we always relish the chance to promote the services we provide and remind students of the importance of their Libraries as part of their success story at Iowa. Simply attending the Summit and being a part of the program was a great opportunity to do just that.