Panel Gives First-Generation College Students the Opportunity to Share Experiences at Midwestern University

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February 24, 2023 | Downers Grove, IL

According to the Center for First-Generation Student Success, roughly one third (42%) of college students identify as first-generation students. First-generation college students are defined as  individuals whose parents do not have a bachelor’s degree. They are reported to be less likely to graduate on time, and they often deal with unique challenges that students whose parents have received degrees do not face.

Supporting the community of first-generation students is a top priority at Midwestern University. On Thursday, February 9, the Downers Grove Campus held an event, titled Our Story: We are MWU First Gen. This panel gave MWU faculty, staff, and students a platform to share their stories on what it means to them to be the first in their family to attend college, as well as to pursue an advanced degree.

Despite the poor weather, the event was well attended by students, faculty, and staff. Hye Seon Yoo, O.D., Assistant Professor, Chicago College of Optometry; Larry Williams, D.D.S., M.P.H., Associate Professor, College of Dental Medicine – Illinois; Electra Jones, Practice Assistant, Dental Institute; Deborah Anderson, PT, Ed.D., PCS, Program Director, Physical Therapy; Maura Porta, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Physiology; and Frank Serrecchia, D.O., Course Director, Clinical Integration, all sat on the panel to share their stories. Guests got to ask questions - such as what being a first-generation student meant to them, what they wished they knew on day one of college, what their biggest challenge was, and how they overcame it.

Dr. Williams said of the event: “The panel was truly a wonderful experience. It was even more special because of the varied backgrounds of the participants, as well as the decision to move the microphone to the audience, as there were members who were also first-generation college students. It was truly a rich learning environment due to the sharing of our many different experiences and stories!”

To learn more about Midwestern University’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, please visit: