For Fall 2019, Ithaca College is adding a Residential Learning Community living space for first-generation students called FIRST Place. After being requested by students and faculty, the living space will be located on the fifth floor of East Tower and is designed to help first-generation students adapt to college and build relationships with members of the campus community.
FIRST Place is an admirable initiative that the Office of Residential Life should be applauded for. When first attending college, many first-generation students report feeling alienated from or unprepared for their college experiences due to their lack of support networks. Unlike their peers who have relatives who have attended college, first-generation students need to find support networks outside of their families, a task that can be daunting when already adjusting to new places. If they ever feel uncertain or concerned about college, first-generation students have to look for other ways to gain perspectives on their issues.
Considering first-generation students are a demographic that spans numerous populations, they are often one that can be overlooked. Though the college has created initiatives to help first-generation students adjust to college life in the past — like the First Look Program and the First Generation Organization — an official living community is still a much-needed addition for first-generation students. A residential community makes it possible for first-generation students to be surrounded by fellow first-generation peers in every facet of their lives at the college, whether that is social, academic or otherwise.
Ultimately, building this new living community is demonstrative of the Office of Residential Life’s understanding of first-generation students’ needs. By creating a residential community specifically for first-generation students, the college is providing an environment in which students can connect with fellow students and faculty who have experienced the same adjustment period they are going through. The addition of this residential community is another step toward making the college as much of an inclusive environment as possible. When the college was first established, it was not designed to serve the disadvantaged communities it currently does. However, this addition serves to bridge that gap and make the college more accessible to different demographics.