Lee Holds First-Generation Week 

News, Student Success

First-Gen Gateway SignLee University recently hosted “First-Generation Week” to celebrate first-generation college students and raise awareness about the challenges they face. The week’s events included “Worthy Now,” a drop-in reception, a Calling & Career lecture, Black Student Union’s “Hope for Exiles,” and performances of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play.” 

“First-Generation Week is a unique occasion to join hundreds of colleges and universities to recognize and celebrate first-generation college students on our respective campuses,” said Dr. Kevin Ung, director of the McNair Scholars Program and Office of Undergraduate Research and Scholarship. “As trailblazers and courageous learners, these students are working to become the first in their families to earn a four-year college degree. Thus, it is imperative that we allocate the necessary resources and support services toward that end.” 

The week began with “Worthy Now,” a conference for women of all ages that seeks to embrace worth, empower others, and inspire calling. Female students spoke at the event, reminding the women in attendance of their worth in Christ. 

The First-Generation Drop-in Reception invited all first-generation staff, faculty, students, and advocates to enjoy a time of conversation. Hot chocolate, a celebratory cake, and a photo booth were available to all attendees as they had fellowship at the fireside gathering. 

“There is so much support at Lee for first-gen students, and there are always people who are always cheering you on,” said Madilyn Voiles, a senior criminal justice major. “Being a LEAP and McNair Scholar as a first-gen student has truly been the greatest blessing during my time at Lee!” 

Lee’s Center for Calling & Career hosted “Managing Imposter Syndrome and Shining at the Expo,” a lecture that sought to confront one of first-generation students’ challenges and teach them how to stand out to employers at graduate and career fairs. 

“Hope for Exiles,” hosted by Black Student Union, was an event at which students, faculty, and staff gathered and participated in student-led worship. 

To conclude the week, first-generation students were encouraged to attend Lee Theatre’s final showings of “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” a spin on a classic American holiday tale. 

The week was organized by Ung and Jeni Turner, McNair Scholars Program coordinator. Julie Burchfield, distance learning librarian; Steven Knapp, assistant director of Lee’s Counseling Center; Kristin Pope, director of the Center for Calling and Career; Mallory Smolen, career services coordinator; and Dr. Angela Waltrip, director of Lee’s Learn Engage Achieve Program (LEAP), along with staff from the Student Success Center and Financial Aid Office, also helped organize the week and encourage student participation by hosting booths at the drop-in reception. 

First-Generation Week is a nationwide celebration to raise awareness and increase advocacy for these students. By participating in the First-Generation Week celebration, Lee hopes to highlight the resources available and the community of first-generation students, faculty, and staff at Lee. As part of the celebration, Lee staff and faculty received “Celebrate First-Gen” bracelets and “I’m First” lapel pins. 

The McNair Scholars Program, which began at Lee in 2017, is designed to provide first-generation and underrepresented students with academic, financial, cultural, and social support by cultivating an interdisciplinary community of scholars who prepare for graduate school through seminars, workshops, campus visits, research experience, and academic conferences. 

For more information about First-Generation College Celebration Week, visit

For more information about the McNair Scholars Program, visit

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