• Sara Rimer

    Senior Contributing Editor

    Sara Rimer

    Sara Rimer A journalist for more than three decades, Sara Rimer worked at the Miami Herald, Washington Post and, for 26 years, the New York Times, where she was the New England bureau chief, and a national reporter covering education, aging, immigration, and other social justice issues. Her stories on the death penalty’s inequities were nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and cited in the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision outlawing the execution of people with intellectual disabilities. Her journalism honors include Columbia University’s Meyer Berger award for in-depth human interest reporting. She holds a BA degree in American Studies from the University of Michigan. Profile

    She can be reached at srimer@bu.edu.

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There are 15 comments on BU to Open New Center to Support First-Generation Students

  1. I believe Boston University started out in NEWBURY VT as the Newbury Bible Institute way back in 1839. And now a little over 180 years later the University welcomes The Newbury Center. It seems a fitting nod to the storied history we now call Boston University.

    Somewhere, Lee Claflin, Isaac Rich and Jacob Sleeper are giving their approval to the creation of the Newbury Center and what it stands for.

    Robbie Lohnes
    University Electrician

  2. Frankly it’s tiresome to see position after position being created in a specific area while we’re allegedly under a hiring freeze, ineligible for raises, and not getting retirement matches for the foreseeable future. Does the administration not recognize the slaps in the face it continues to deliver its staff? Enough with the PR positioning already, your staff is struggling.

    1. BU had been thinking of hiring someone for this position for a while now. It just so happened they decided to continue with the search in the pandemic. The school does not have a dedicated space for first gen students and this a first step towards inclusion and building a strong community.

      1. Actually, the school has had the University Service Center work with First Generation students for over a decade at this point, but why shore up that department when the institution can found yet another center in the name of DEI and get some good press? Classic BU move!

        1. I know the USC has supported first gen students (I was a peer mentor) but it’s not the same when they also serve other students. Other colleges have a clear space for first gen students and BU is finally stepping up to offer the same resources as other higher ranked colleges. The new center is not taking away from the department but would probably be able to offer more than what exists now.

          The thing is that a lot of first gen students asked for a dedicated space for years and BU if finally acting on their input.

          1. Katherine, I respect and understand what you’re saying. I myself was a student who received a pell grant to attend a private university. The first-generation status resonates with me in some ways (not all).

            Ultimately, if this will better serve our students, count me in. However, I’ve also been here a long time in a professional capacity and have seen how students change their minds on whether they want to identify with affinity spaces based on race, ethnicity, class, gender, etc. It’s always a touchy subject and is largely influenced by social happenings in the country and at other institutions. Students want “X” because that’s what Harvard has, not because it doesn’t already exist at BU in a different capacity.

            It is my hope that this will be a substantive improvement on the foundation laid by the USC, but I remain skeptical. This is not the only position reporting to VP Williams that was created and posted during our hiring freeze, along with the appointment of a Senior Diversity Officer. All of these roles offer lucrative salaries, too. Other departments can’t even fill basic administrative union positions. That’s why I question how much of this is PR and how much is sincere.

            We will see how things unfold, and good luck to Director Erb.

            Thank you for the dialogue.

  3. As a BU alumnus, I am happy to see aid for students for academic advising, mentoring, access to resources. My concern is, is this aid exclusively for first-gen students? Would those students who seek aid from the Newbury Center and DO NOT consider themselves first-gen be denied help or told to go to a different center? If so, I find this to not be inclusive at all and to have the opposite effect. Why are you dividing your students up into first-gen and not first-gen? Stop categorizing and dividing. Just provide a center that aids ALL students equally without any discrimination of any form. That would be a more inclusive approach.

    1. It is important to recognize that first gens face unique challenges and so the kinds of support that they need going to be very different. Generalized university supports are already in place and do not always reach this group of students. Equality does not mean equity. The center is there to validate their experiences and build community. I’m sure the center is not going to deny any services.

  4. I was such a stubborn struggling student when I attended BU as a first generation student, but this could have made a difference. After all I was always trying to make a home out of choir, or Umoja — even the Multicultural Affairs office. Looking forward to seeing the good work this Center will do. I hope my education access works brings me to the center in the next few years.

  5. I applaud BU for taking this step to help support first-gen students. From my understanding, the founding of the Newbury Center was heavily inspired by the advocacy of and a detailed proposal by first-gen BU students. I wonder if the University plans to recognize these students and their work in any way in addition to that of the planning group.

    I’d also like to reiterate what Katherine said in her response to Jeff’s concerns. This has been in the works for some time, and it is not “PR positioning” — it’s the University taking action directly in response to first-gen students advocating for their own needs.

  6. I am pleased to read this article by Sara Rimer, reflecting BU’s effort to help first-generation students and faculty realize the important role this segment plays in Academia.

    It appeared Ms. Rimer was narrating my personal journey that began almost 48 years ago as an immigrant when I arrived in New York from Pakistan. I had nothing in my pocket except the will and determination to support my family get through the difficult times. I was the eldest amongst eight siblings and felt it was my responsibility to help out. Then again, at 18, how does one know whether the will to succeed is enough to embark on this responsible journey I had in mind.

    That was 1971, and the beginning of an incredible journey.

    Today, at 67, I made the bold decision to pursue my Masters, and not only am I enrolled in the MMH program, but I am also teaching at BU, which had been my passion for many years. I am a proud Adjunct Professor teaching the Fall Semester at BU-SHA.

    In my 40 years of hospitality career, I have helped navigate our industry through many crises; Ebola, SARS, 9/11, recession and now COVID-19. However, I have never felt a need more vital than now, a purpose profound and higher than anything else to support and improve the lives of people impacted by this global pandemic. Whether be it mentoring or empowering my students to embrace innovation, or to adapt to the new environment, and co-exist with COVID-19.

    Today, however, while the context is quite different, I am reminded of the famous quote,
    “Can’t we just get along”? Of course, we can, but education continued innovation and tolerance is the key.
    It is vital to continue to explore diversity and how BU contributes to this generation by providing resources to this diverse and critical segment of its constituency so we can represent our fine institution and extend our footprint globally.

    I am proud to proceed with the last part of my journey, that will allow me to earn my MMH at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration, Class of 2021. My passion for teaching at BU as an Adjunct Professor has increased tenfold, and it has been a phenomenal experience. I am grateful to my Dean, who has allowed me to use my decades of C-Suite practice to the classroom and share with my students.

    I am open to being involved in any committee or BU initiatives that deal with diversity, first-generation students, or other progressive and even humanitarian cause that will bring additional prestige and equity to BU; please contact me. It will be an honor to represent BU at this unprecedented time of global crises.

    1. Thank you for reading and sharing your inspirational first gen success story. How wonderful to hear that this latest chapter of your remarkable journey from Pakistan to the US has led you here. Welcome to BU!

  7. I am a retired school administrator who sent many a first-generation student to BU. I applaud this initiative, which honors Newbury College and looks forward to what are probably going to be significant changes in enrollment patterns at institutions of higher learning. I understand the expressions of concern but the long-term reality is rooted in demographic patterns. A major segment of future student bodies will be the children of people who have immigrated to the US over the past 10 years. Another important segment will be traditionally underserved segments of our population.

    Congratulations, BU!

  8. This is a great initiative, for a variety of reasons. It helps to address this country’s class system, which is very much alive and well. If the concept of class were reintroduced into our national political discourse, it would allow white working class people to see that they have the same socioeconomic and political interests as black and brown working class people. The widespread disappearance of class as a concept in our public discourse allows an individual like Trump to divide white workers from black and brown workers, all to the advantage of the 1%. Approaching the challenges of first-generation students allows us to perceive class commonality much more clearly.

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