‘Hoos First’ Student Center Celebrates Grand Opening in Newcomb

February 15, 2024
Collage of three photos, candid of President Jim Ryan, left, the mural, center, candid of Michelle Bair, right

The Hoos First Student Center welcomed its first guests Thursday, including President Jim Ryan, left, and center director Michelle Bair, right. Also attending were Vice President Kenyon Bonner and Dean of Students Cedric Rucker – all first-generation students. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications; illustration by John DiJulio, University Communications)

A mural and its message immediately greet visitors to the newly opened Hoos First Student Center in the University of Virginia’s Newcomb Hall.

A quote, “Success is not limited by your background, it’s built upon the foundation of your determination,” stretches across the three-canvas collection that third-year student Sahar Asghari painted for the center.

“It’s nice because the center is a study space as well,” the foreign affairs and studio art double major said. “I can go there to study, and I know the other kids around there are looking at this piece with a similar background as me, even though they might have completely different experiences.”

Portrait of Sahar Asghari

Sahar Asghari spent approximately 75 hours painting the Hoos First Student Center mural. (Contributed photo)

The Hoos First Student Center, located on the bottom level of Newcomb Hall, officially opened its doors Friday.

As the newest addition to the portfolio of the Office of Student Affairs and a pillar of the University’s 2030 “Great and Good” Strategic Plan, the Hoos First program is designed to support and empower first-generation and limited-income students.

In addition to study spaces, there are lounge areas, books, snacks and a conference room. The space is open for students to use weekdays from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 9 p.m.

In the year since the program’s founding, Hoos First has spotlighted the University’s resources to support first-generation college students and those from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. The program provides students with academic assistance, career development, financial literacy training and post-graduate preparation.

As a first-generation student herself, Michelle Bair, the inaugural director of Hoos First, said the student center is something she wished she had during her time as an undergraduate student.

“We’re already getting some traction from professors and other folks around Grounds who want to utilize this space,” Bair said. “Now these students and faculty members have a home base to host events and activities.”

Portait of the full mural within the Hoos First Student Center
The mural Asghari created was inspired by a lesson on triptychs – or the compilation of three images in one cohesive piece – from one of her studio art classes. (Photo by Emily Faith Morgan, University Communications)

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