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UT Celebrates First-Generation Students, Faculty, & Staff

First-Generation Initiatives, a key unit within Student Success, celebrated first-generation students, faculty, and staff during events held Tuesday, April 5, and Wednesday, April 6. 

The inaugural class of the newly established Alpha Alpha Alpha (Tri Alpha) Honors Society was inducted on April 5 in the Student Union Flying J Ballroom. UT’s Provost John Zomchick, a first-generation student, was the first of 166 inductees into the honors society and gave opening remarks. Zomchick accepted the charter for the new organization during the ceremony, which began with a networking reception for students and their families. 

“I am deeply honored to be inducted into Alpha Alpha Alpha and to celebrate with our first-generation students,” Provost Zomchick said. “First-generation students not only change their own lives, but they also become role models for their friends and family. The entire course of a family can change because of a first-generation student’s courageous decision to pursue higher education. We are proud to support these students on their journey.” 

“Provost Zomchick advocates and supports our programs, and we wanted to acknowledge him with inducting him as the first member,” Talisha Adams, director of First-Generation Initiatives, said. 

Associate Vice Provost for Student Success Leonard Clemons provided the keynote address. In addition to the students, eight faculty and staff members who serve on the First-Generation Advisory Council were inducted as honorary members.  

Autumn Large, a sophomore in mathematics and inductee into Tri Alpha, said she appreciates the idea of being a role model for further generations. “It is a journey of unfamiliarity, yet persistence despite the odds being somewhat against me,” Large said. “It is a reminder that I am creating my own legacy for subsequent generations of my family.” 

Following the ceremony, inductees will elect the first executive board before the semester ends and kickoff fall 2022 as a member of the society.  

The following day, April 6, the inaugural First-Generation Faculty & Staff Reception took place in the Frieson Black Cultural Center, cohosted by the Office of the Provost and First-Generation Initiatives. Approximately 40 faculty and staff attended.  

Provost Zomchick again offered remarks during the reception, especially relating to his identity as a first-generation college student and graduate. Vice Provost for Student Success Amber Williams spoke about the university’s support of first-generation students and both current and future initiatives that are dedicated to the success of those students.  

“During this week of honoring our first-generation student scholars, faculty, and staff, it was an honor to celebrate alongside them and acknowledge the unique perspectives and strengths they bring to the Volunteer community,” Williams said. “Their contributions are not only seen and felt at UT, but throughout the larger community and world.” 

First-Generation Initiatives will host the First-Generation Graduates Reception on May 9 from 3 p.m.-5 p.m. in the Student Union Pilot Flying J Ballroom.