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First-Generation Week 2021


Texas A&M University is celebrating the determined spirit of students, faculty, and staff who were the first in their families to earn a four-year degree. First-generation students are broadly defined as those whose parents have not earned a bachelor’s degree. About 24% of the undergraduate population at Texas A&M University identify as being first-generation students. 

With support from the Office for Student Success’ Routh First-Generation Center, the Office of the President, and the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President, among others, the weeklong celebration begins Nov. 8 and will showcase all walks of life being lived by students and faculty/staff. Each day’s theme will feature mini-profiles, from students to employees, along with events around the university.

In honor of Veterans Day, November 11, Texas A&M University will join the nation in honoring our American heroes for their sacrifice, bravery, and service to their country. Nationally, 62% of college student veterans are first-generation, and at Texas A&M University, almost 40% of our student veteran population is first-generation. Brazos County will host its annual events to honor all veterans who have served in the uniformed services of the United States. Please visit the links to learn more about the special events taking place on November 11 and show support of our veterans. 

  • Earl Graham Post 159 American Legion, Veterans Day Ceremony, November 11, 11:00 am , for more information please see here.
  • Veterans Day Ceremony, Brazos Valley Veterans Memorial, 5:30 PM to 7:00 PM, for more information please see here.

We will be highlighting one campus group each day following the schedule below:

  • Monday, Nov. 8 – College Day 

  • Tuesday, Nov. 9 – Faculty/Staff Panels 

  • Wednesday, Nov. 10 – Routh First-Generation Center Celebration at Rudder Plaza

  • Thursday, Nov. 11 – Student Panels

  • Friday, Nov 12 – First-Gen MSC Gallery Walk



National First-Generation Day, College Day

 Monday, Nov. 8, 2021

Texas A&M University is committed to advancing first-generation student success. Campus Units, Colleges, and Departments will host various events throughout the day to recognize and celebrate first-generation students to kick off the weeklong celebration. For students, staff, and faculty, please check your respective college websites, and emails for more information.

National Virtual Event: Center for First-Generation Student Success: A  National Celebration Centering First-Gen Voices

 Monday, Nov. 8, 3:00 pm ET

The Center for First-Generation Student Success will feature a panel of first-gen students and graduates sharing insight into their experience, moderated by Dr. Quintin B. Bullock, President, Community College of Allegheny County located in Allegheny Pennsylvania. It is through our understanding of the first-gen identity and experiences we may better align institution resources and support offerings to meet the unique needs of first-gen students. 

Registration Link:



Supporting First-Generation Students in the Classroom and Beyond

9.png Tuesday, Nov. 9, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

While many college students may encounter challenges and difficulties during their time on campus, First-Generation Students may experience greater challenging contexts and situations as they navigate the often complex and confusing world of higher education. In this panel session, first-generation students will share some of their experiences and how instructors can better support learning and student success in the classroom and beyond.

  • First-Gen Students
  • Nate Poling, Ph.D., Texas A&M Center for Teaching Excellence
  • Jennifer Daly, MAC, Texas A&M Center for Teaching Excellence
  • Leticia Palomin, Ph.D., Routh First-Generation Center  

Council for Opportunity in Education Hotard Watch Party: 2021 First-Generation College Celebration Lunch & Learn

9.png Tuesday, Nov. 9, 1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Council for Opportunity in Education is hosting a virtual panel discussion related to first-generation student success. This panel discussion will provide a foundation of information and inspiration that will prompt larger conversations at your institution or agency. The Routh First-Generation Center in the Office for Student Success invites all Texas A&M faculty and staff join us at Hotard Hall, room 111 to view the panel discussion and participate in a discussion after the event. 

Registration Link:


CatalystFIRST Virtual Event: National Scholar Will Offer Insights on First-Generation Student Success

9.png Tuesday, Nov. 9, 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. 

About the speaker: Rashné Jehangir, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of Higher Education and the Robert H. Beck Chair of Ideas in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Minnesota—Twin Cities. As a scholar practitioner, she is particularly interested in how research influences practice in student development, pedagogy and advising and is equally interested in how praxis informs research and illuminates gaps that are worthy of inquiry toward justice and equity. Considering the intersectionality and positionality of first-gen identity and the specific context of our institutions and programs is critical to her work.

  • Leticia Palomin, Ph.D., Routh First-Generation Center
 Registration Link:


Routh First-Generation Center Celebration at Rudder Plaza

9.png Wednesday, Nov. 10, 11:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
In honor of National First-Generation Day on November 8th, the Routh First-Generation Center in the Office for Student Success invites you to join us in-person on Wednesday, November 10, from 11 am-1 pm at Rudder Plaza. We will be joined by student organizations, student support services, Reveille, a photo booth, FG swag items for all Texas A&M first-gen students, staff, and faculty to enjoy.
  • For more information about the event, please contact the Routh First-Generation Center at




Virtual Backgrounds



Available here


Career Exploration with First-Generation Students Workshop

9.png Thursday, Nov. 11, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.

The Texas A&M Career Center will equip first-generation students with career development tools that will help students search for jobs, connect with alumni, practice interviewing, and find research opportunities.  

  • Jasmine Zenn, Career Coordinator, Career Center
  • Paige Hellman Millar, Career Coordinator, Career Center

Registration Link:

Class Councils Panel: Advancing Traditions at Texas A&M

9.png Thursday, Nov. 11, 5:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. 

Class Councils, as a representative body, strives to serve and unite Texas A&M University and to enhance traditions for the continual improvement of the Aggie community. Traditions that are put on by Class Councils include Fish Fest, Pull Out Day, Elephant Walk, Ring Dance, and 11-11 Day. Our mission is to build spirit by unifying the classes through Aggie Traditions.

  • Class Council Team  
  • Leticia Palomin, Ph.D., Routh First-Generation Center  
Registration Link: 


Advancing First-Generation Student Success: First-Generation Former Texas A&M Student Panel 

9.png Thursday, Nov. 11, 6:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. 

The Routh First-Generation Center will host a first-generation former student panel. The purpose of the student panel is to elevate the voices and experiences of first-generation college students at Texas A&M. These former Texas A&M first-generation graduates will share their experiences navigating the college environment and learning the hidden curriculum of higher education through their perspective. The Routh First-Generation Center in the Office for Student Success encourages all Texas A&M faculty and staff, and students to join us for this virtual event. 
  • First-Gen Students
  • Leticia Palomin, Ph.D., Routh First-Generation Center  

Registration Link:


MSC First-Gen Gallery Walk

12 Friday, Nov. 12

The Texas A&M community will have the opportunity to learn more about our first-generation population. The Office of the Provost Communications team invites you to join us in-person and stop by the Memorial Student Center (MSC) to read the stories of first-gen students, staff, and faculty.


Follow us!
Follow us on social media for updates about the First-Generation Celebration, and look out for some of our students as they take you through a day in the life of a first-generation 

First-Generation Deans
  Shawn Gibbs    

Shawn Gibbs

I was the first person in my family to graduate from college. I never planned to go to graduate school and knew little about public health. Exploration is what got me into it. ... I was fortunate to find great mentoring in my graduate program that took the time to help me understand the opportunities that were available to me, and like so many other first-generation students, I didn’t know those opportunities even existed.


  Duane Ireland    

Duane Ireland

Dr. Duane Ireland was born into a family of
“railroaders” who valued hard work and ensuring that trains reached their destinations on time. Dr. Ireland applied his energies to becoming a first-generation student in the management program at Texas Tech University. Career stops followed in government and in academia at Oklahoma State, Baylor University, the University of Richmond, and Texas A&M, where he serves as interim dean of Mays Business School. 

  John Hurtato    

John Hurtado

Dr. John E. Hurtado spent much of his childhood on his grandfather’s small farm in Fresno, California. His journey as a first-generation student began at a community college, and advice from faculty and advisors inspired him to become an engineer. That encouragement led Hurtado to hop on a Greyhound bus 33 years ago to visit Texas A&M, where he would go on to earn a master’s and Ph.D. He now serves as interim vice chancellor and dean of engineering.

  Patrick Stover    

Patrick Stover

Growing up, a young Patrick Stover assisted with his family’s farm in rural Pennsylvania. This farm-to-table journey, his involvement in 4-H, and its collective impact on his family, planted a seed that would eventually shape his educational path and professional career. Stover and his seven siblings were encouraged to pursue higher education by their parents, who didn’t have the same opportunity. Now, Patrick Stover leads Texas A&M’s charge to restore the connections among people, agriculture, food, science, and the economy.


  Indra Reddy    

Indra Reddy

Born and raised in a small rural town in India, Dr. Indra Reddy dreamed big. In the third grade, he visited a public library and felt like he’d stepped into Disney, with books on all subjects at his fingertips. The librarian told him that students in college came there more often than others, and that stuck with him. He went home that day to his parents, and declared, “I want to go to college.” And he did, all the way to Aggieland, eventually becoming the founding dean of the Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy, where he still enjoys big dreams today.



First-Generation Faculty

  Gabriela Zapata    

Gabriela Zapata

Professor, Hispanic Studies

My parents did not go to college, but they always encouraged me to excel academically. My first semester at my university was a bit hard: I didn’t know how things worked, and my parents could not help. So I observed other students (e.g., where they studied, how they behaved in class), and I asked questions. Things got better soon! My studies gave me a joy I had never felt before. So I refused to leave the university world, and I became a professor!

  Sherecce Fields    

Sherecce Fields​

Associate Department Head and Professor, Psychological and Brain Sciences

My first year of college was very tough. I was never prepared for what it would be like living away from home and on my own. No one in my family had ever gone to college, so no one had any advice for how to navigate the system. It was an eye-opening experience, but it also made me appreciate what an amazing opportunity I had to be able to get a degree and instilled in me a love of learning that I carry to this day and that I hope to share with the students that I teach and mentor.

First-Generation Staff

  Leticia Palomin    

Leticia Palomin

Program Manager, Routh First-Generation Center

Rio Grande Valley-born Dr. Leticia Palomin grew up with an appreciation for education and a dream to enhance her life’s story by becoming a Texas Aggie. The first-generation graduate loved learning so much she completed her Ph.D. in Educational Administration with an emphasis in Higher Education Administration. She brings her commitment to first-generation students to her service overseeing the Routh First-Generation Center in the Office for Student Success and reminds every student to remember their “why,” encouraging them to embrace, own, and share their first-generation stories.

  Charlene Shroulote-Durán    

Charlene Shroulote-Durán

Associate Director, Institute for Sustainable Communities

Growing up on a Native American reservation, I didn’t even know what a university looked like, so being the first person in my entire extended family to attend college is a big deal. I struggled my first semester. Adjusting to college life was hard, and I  onsidered quitting. Joining a student organization changed my path. The people I met became family, and the work we were doing made me feel like I was making a difference. I graduated with honors AND earned two master’s degrees!

  Gabriela Zapata    

Julie Shaddox

IT Business Analyst, Enterprise Information Systems

I worked really hard to complete my degree because I wanted to have a better life than my parents. I had to work to accomplish tasks such as applying for admissions and scholarships independently, as my parents had no experience navigating these  waters. Even though I had to work many jobs outside of school to help pay for expenses, I was able to complete my degree in 4.5 years. I still say college was one of the best times of my life.

First-Generation Students

  Leticia Palomin    

Alexia Williams 

Class of 2022 | Performance Studies Major 

Being a first-generation student means that I’m breaking down barriers. I used to let the “first-gen” identity linger as a letdown, not knowing things that seemed like common sense to others, or not knowing about college life. I’ve come to a point where being a first-generation student isn’t a negative title. I’m proud about it, and it pushes me to do better in all aspects of my life. My parents didn’t have this opportunity, but I do. I’m grateful I’m here, and I’m thriving.

  Charlene Shroulote-Durán    

William Cardoso

Class of 2023 | Construction Science

In 9th grade, I struggled with grades while watching my brother try to take on higher education. I started working hard, took AP classes, and placed in the top 10. My dream was to attend Texas A&M, but leaving home was something I had never done. I took 18 hours my first year of college and struggled to identify resources and find my identity. I thought of dropping out. I selected a Peer Mentor and started to feel welcome, as I was surrounded by others who were dealing with similar issues. I realized that I would need to get off probation if I wanted to graduate. I learned from my mistakes, and now I'm getting back on track to graduate on time.

  Gabriela Zapata    

Canaan Hatfield

Class of 2024 | Biomedical Sciences

Getting accepted to Texas A&M had always been a dream of mine. I visited the university for the first time in 2019 and made my decision that it was the place for me when our guide explained Silver Taps. I cried from excitement when I got my acceptance email. I remember tearing up  outside of the Administration Building because I was proud of myself. I share my love of A&M with other prospective freshmen as a tour guide and show them that they are as much a part of the Aggie Family as I am.

  Gabriela Zapata    

Alana Blake

Class of 2023 | Sociology 

Being a first-generation college student raised by a single parent for the majority of my life, I am a strong believer that a growth mindset, rather than a fixed one, is the single most important factor when it comes to success. I worked over 30 hours a week to pay tuition my first semester. I wasn’t happy in my major and had a bad mindset that I had to do everything on my own and never asked for the help I desperately needed. I ended my first semester at Texas A&M with a 1.7 GPA, on academic probation, and at risk of losing my place at my dream university. Then I picked myself up, determined to change the course of my family and be the first to get a college degree. I have gotten a 3.7 and a 4.0 GPA every semester since.