In 2013, Williams College hired Rosanna Reyes as Associate Dean and Dean of First Generation Initiatives. Initially, first-generation students were only part of the job description and not her title. Reyes, however, wanted first-generation students to be included in her title and petitioned the college to add it. She wanted to help make this population of students more visible to the campus community and thought the title was one way to starting doing that.
Williams is the only liberal arts college with a dean of first generation initiatives. Reyes’ dissertation focused on first-generation students and she brings insight as to what works well on college campuses.
In an interview last year, Reyes said she wants to make sure “it is known that Williams College makes first-generation students a priority.” With first-gen students comprising almost 20% of the student body, Reyes serves an important purpose at Williams.
Reyes oversees several first-generation students events throughout the school year. A pre-orientation program gives incoming first-gen students and their families an early opportunity to get acquainted to the college campus. During the three-day program, students attend workshops and activities designed to help them acclimate academically and socially. A fall meet and greet offers students another chance to meet faculty, staff, and other students. Graduating first-gen students participate in the “Rites of Passage” graduation celebration. To make sure student voices are included in her work, Reyes launched a first-gen student advisory board and selects students from various class years.
Reyes has made it her mission to raise the visibility and pride of first-gen students at Williams. In November 2013, she even wrote a powerful piece about her first-gen story. College and universities need more people like Reyes that are invested in the first-generation student experience.