Carmen Huerta-Bapat, coordinator for Carolina Firsts, said the new website, firstwelcome.unc.edu, seeks to help first-generation college students transition to being at a university.
“What this is doing, it’s an initiative to recognize all of the people here at Carolina, professors and administrators, who have also been first-generation college students themselves,” Huerta-Bapat said. “So it’s a complimentary approach to what we already have here.”
Huerta-Bapat said first-generation college students will be able to watch videos on the website showcasing UNC professors and staff. The videos will give students a sense of the professors’ and staffs’ struggles as first-generation college students.
“I feel that every person that they have been able to do a video on has a story to share, and when you go onto the website and click on it, you are really able to get a sense of where they’re coming from,” she said.
Huerta-Bapat said she is hoping students will look at the stories, connect with them and reach out to the person profiled. She said as a sociologist she firmly believes in the importance of personal relationships and thinks that the website fosters these relationships and allows students to gain an understanding of how the University functions.
Psychology professor Jeannie Loeb, who is featured on the website, said her insights come from looking back at her time in college.
“So I don’t think that I realized when I was in college that I was actually missing a lot of information that could have been helpful in terms of succeeding in college and also even just understanding exactly what I was there to do,” she said.
Loeb said she loves the idea of the website because it will help students identify with the University on a more personal level.
“Some of these personal stories that the faculty are giving is our way of trying to give a leg up for these students that we know are going to be facing some of the same challenges that we did,” she said.
Loeb said when she was in college, she didn’t think there was anyone in particular that she could identify with and get information to help her navigate college life.
Law professor Donna Nixon said she was the first in her family to get a four-year degree.
“I went to community college and that was a really a good building experience because it got me focused and I learned how to be a college student and got a good support,” she said.
Nixon said by the time she came to UNC she already had three degrees — a two-year degree, a four-year degree and a law school degree.
“It’s nice to get this far, and I hope that the coming generations will be able to build on it,” she said.