First Generation English Majors, a new student organization, will provide a support network for first-generation students who may experience feelings of not belonging at the university, according to club advisor Karen Redfield.
Redfield, also an English Department Undergraduate Advisor, and UW-Madison junior Erika Gallagher, an English Literature major and president of the group, started the group this semester. They held the first meeting Wednesday.
The goal of the group is to connect first-generation students within the English Department and build a support network, according to Redfield. She said they hope members will participate in career workshops as well as visits from first-generation faculty and staff. Gallagher said she is compiling resources and is hoping to have networking events and similar programs.
Redfield—a first-generation student herself—said she felt it was important to identify herself as such so that students would feel comfortable talking to her about issues they face.
“First Gen students are often very strong and motivated to succeed,” Redfield said in an email. “But it can be hard to navigate an unfamiliar university on your own. Families often want to help, but just don’t know how. I want to acknowledge our majors’ challenges, praise their strengths and offer any support I can.”
Along with the new group, Working Class Student Union has a support system for first-generation students. Redfield said First GEMs is going to look into planning events with them.
There is also a first-generation staff group within the College of Letters and Science—being a member inspired Redfield to start the new organization specifically for English majors.
“Most of us had—or still have—feelings of not belonging in the university or feeling like we don’t know all the ‘rules’ that others who come from college-educated families seem to know,” Redfield said. “The First GEMs club will help First Gen students find each other and expand their support network.”