First Tigers - First Generation College Students

Being a first-generation college student means neither parent has completed a four-year degree. At Wittenberg, we are proud that more than 20% of our students are first-gen. Here, first-gen status is a point of pride among our students, faculty, and staff.

Our Mission

The mission of First Tigers is to provide a supportive and welcoming community for first-generation college students and their families, a campus culture that recognizes and celebrates first-generation student identity as an asset. It is a program that intentionally connects first-generation students to faculty, resources, information, and experiences that promote academic and personal success from enrollment through graduation.

Alpha Alpha Alpha LogoA Forward-Thinking Program

Wittenberg was one of the first schools nationwide to bring Alpha Alpha Alpha a National Honors society to campus. Wittenberg was also selected to receive a grant from NASPA for support of its First-Generation Student Celebration week activities.

Reasons to Participate in First Tigers

  • Access to a network of first-generation peers, faculty and staff who offer mentoring and support.
  • A series of workshops offered specifically for first generation students on a variety of topics.
  • Connection to opportunities, information, resources, and experiences.

First Generation Logo

First Tigers Transition-For New Students

During the first couple weeks of Fall term, we offer COMPASS success coaching, networking opportunities, and catered events like our 1st Gen-Trivia Night. We have our faculty and staff who are first generation graduates and those who support first generation students come to welcome you to Wittenberg. This is a terrific opportunity to begin to make connections across campus.

First Generation Mentors

These staff and faculty members at Wittenberg University were once in your shoes as first generation students. They understand that you have a lot of questions, and would be happy to help you answer them! Feel free to contact any of these mentors with your university-related questions.

Cherie Rebar

Drew Sawyer
Associate Director of Student Success

I oversee the First Tiger program and am also the first in my family to receive a master’s degree. I know the struggles that come with continuing education as an adult learner and the barriers students encounter along the way. Through perseverance and support, I was able to accomplish my goal of completing my master’s degree in business psychology. This allowed me to gain a larger income, work in higher education, and make an impact on young people and the community that helped shape me.

Carol Nickoson

Carol Nickoson
Assistant Director of Human Resources

I grew up in southern California and was the first in my immediate and extended family to attend college. I did not do much of a college search; I never went on an admission visit and my only experience on a campus was through camps at two nearby colleges. I chose to attend the University of California, Riverside (UCR) because it was affordable and I could commute from home. None of my high school friends were going to UCR so it was important that I got involved to make connections. I joined a sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, and that experience gave me a wealth of opportunities. I was selected to be an orientation counselor at the end of my first year and that role led to employment in the Student Life office where I worked with orientation and student organizations until the summer after I graduated. My family and I knew nothing about navigating college, but we learned along the way, a skill that has proved helpful in my graduate education and my career.

Amy McGuffey

Amy McGuffey, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Education
Director of Graduate Studies

As a first-generation college student, I was fortunate to have the encouragement of my parents. Although they did not understand the processes associated with college, they supported me in reaching my goals. This meant that I learned things on my own, but more importantly, I was changing the course for the next generation of our family. It also provided me with a sense of accomplishment and pride that I was able to earn my undergraduate degree and eventually my Ph.D. Throughout the college process I learned that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. That has been something that I have taken with me and has helped me in every area of life. I am grateful for the opportunities provided to me through my college experience as I would not be where I am today without them.

Jay Owen

Jay Owen
Head Coach, Men’s Lacrosse

My experience as a first generation college student was amazing. I met my wife, my best friends, have an outstanding mentor, and it afforded me to have a higher paying job to provide for my family. It was also rewarding now that I am older to see the pride in my parents for being able to provide me.

Gwen Owen

Gwen Owen
Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life

I am from Maryland, but have lived in Ohio for the past 10 years. I was a first generation college student graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Administration and I continued on to get my Master’s degree in Education. I am proud to be a first generation college student and feel it has provided me opportunities I would not have had if I decided not to attend college. What I would like to pass on to other first gen students is to get involved with the campus community, with union board, student senate, or any club or organization that interests you. Try new things, don’t always take the practical class, take things that sound interesting or are just something you like, study abroad, do FIRE week and have fun!

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