The Bigger Picture: First Things First

September 18, 2019 By Sanjay Suchak, Sanjay Suchak,

First-generation students make up nearly 13% of the University of Virginia’s Class of 2023, a 20% increase over last year. President Jim Ryan, who is also a first-generation college graduate, joined other first-generation students, faculty and staff to welcome them at a reception Tuesday afternoon at Alumni Hall. 

Speaking at the reception, Ryan told the students, “You absolutely belong here.”

He said when he was a student at Yale University, he worried too much about fitting in. “I tried as hard as I could to fit in and feel like I belonged,” he said. He realizes now that he should have been spending his time focusing on what matters: finding friends, faculty and classes that excited him. He ultimately did.

“Just be yourself and think more about how you can stand out than worrying about whether you fit in,” he said.

In closing, Ryan invited the students to jot down some words about their experiences at UVA in special notebooks each received as a welcome gift. Students will share their messages at an additional first-generation event in the spring. Ryan said the students’ words will help his administration “to continue to do as best we can to support all of you and to make this the most transformative experience possible.”

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