The University of Michigan has opened a First-Generation Student Gateway to serve as a central hub of information and support for students who are the first in their families to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

Open during regular business hours in the Student Activities Building and housed in suite 3009 in the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives, the room serves as a meeting space and study lounge, and the office for Adan Hussain, first-generation project manager.

The space also is available after-hours by request.

The facility focuses on creating a welcoming space for students and serves as a starting point to connect them with resources and support.

“What we’ve done is centralized a lot of first-generation efforts,” says Hussain, who also was a first-generation student. “It was really important to us to have a dedicated space because it creates a welcoming area and shows our commitment that we truly want these students here.”

The gateway provides a variety of resources on financial aid, programs, grants and scholarships, study abroad opportunities, career advice and community building activities. It serves as a launching point for several partner offices including Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, the Comprehensive Studies Program, the Office of New Student Programs and the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives.

The resources are open to all first-generation undergraduate and graduate students and their allies. A first-generation student at U-M is defined as one who may self-identify as not having prior exposure to or knowledge of navigating higher institutions and may need additional assistance.

Kedra Ishop, associate vice provost for enrollment management, said that one in nine students in the 2017 incoming class are the first in their family to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

While other universities are beginning to add similar spaces and programs, Hussain notes that creating the gateway puts U-M ahead of the curve.

“A lot of times it’s even hard knowing what kinds of questions to ask when you’re not familiar with the environment, so this is also that space where people can feel safe to ask those questions, or even come in and say, ‘I don’t even know what to ask,'” he adds.

“It’s so important to have folks come together so that they understand that they’re not the only ones going through these things.”

First-generation student and Ph.D. candidate Carolina Ramirez said she is excited to know there’s a space on campus for her to come together with other similar students.

“Sometimes, as a first-generation student, you feel like a fish out of water. This space will definitely make a difference and make it easier to find information,” she says.