Business Administration and Politics double-major Gloria Okwueze ’25 was one of only 50 students selected nationally to attend the American Enterprise Institute’s First Generation Student Forum in Washington, D.C., where she had the opportunity to connect with professionals and peers to discuss the state of the “American Dream.”
Okwueze attended several panels and workshops at the conference, where she learned about civic responsibility and the future of work for her generation. There were also professional development opportunities, where she was able to build her resume and network with professionals. She even visited the United States Capitol with fellow attendees.
“The conference’s most invaluable aspect was interactions with other first-generation students. It was enlightening to hear their unique stories and understand their motivations for pursuing higher education,” says Okwueze. “The realization that there are numerous students like me, each with their journey, was both empowering and inspiring.”
The decision to attend the conference stemmed from a recommendation from Professor of Politics Dr. Joe Knippenberg, a fellow first-gen college graduate.
Okwueze also spoke about her experience as a first-generation student at Oglethorpe University’s inaugural “Supporting First-Generation Students in Higher Education” conference last month. Together with several current students and alumni, Okwueze helped higher education practitioners learn about the hurdles that students like her can face when coming to college: imposter syndrome, feelings of isolation, financial insecurity and a “hidden curriculum” — unspoken rules about how to think and act in a college setting that first-generation students may not know.
“Being a first-generation student is a profound responsibility, recognizing that my life’s journey extends beyond personal ambitions to serve as an inspiration for my two younger sisters and my family,” she says.
“This realization serves as my primary motivation, grounding my commitment to overcoming challenges and succeeding in my academic pursuits.”