GSDM Student Affairs Celebrates First-Generation Students

Students who are the first in their families to attend either college or a graduate/professional school like GSDM have achieved something significant–and that deserves to be celebrated, thought Erica Stocks, GSDM Student Affairs director.

Enter: the GSDM First-Generation Celebration, hosted by GSDM Student Affairs on Thursday, November 9, in which first-generation students were recognized with snacks and coffee throughout the day. Stocks said these tokens of appreciation sent a powerful message of admiration.

“Recognizing and celebrating a first-generation student’s accomplishments validates their hard work and perseverance, but also inspires others facing similar journeys,” Stocks said. “In doing so, we can foster a sense of community and support and also promote inclusivity, diversity, and the transformative power of education and encourage future generations to pursue their academic goals regardless of their background.”

Boston University defines a first-generation student as someone who is either the first in their family to go to college, or the first in their family to pursue an advanced degree, like a master’s, doctorate, or professional degree. About 30 percent of current DMD/DMD AS students and residents are considered as first-generation students under the university’s dual definition, although the school does not have exact data, according to Stocks.

During the celebration, GSDM Communications asked five first-year first-generation students about what it means to be a first-generation student.

Yousef Atrous DMD 27

“For me, it means always being the first one to take that first step in life, be the first one who would ask questions and not be shy; to be outgoing. Because staying quiet, you’re going to be stuck in this little hole, but being ‘first-gen’, it’s really important to branch out and learn from others and other people’s routes to getting to different places where you want to get to, and find that role model in your life where you can help find yourself following their footsteps.”

Stephanie Catalano DMD AS 25

“It’s an honor to be here… I struggled a lot to get my degree in my country. So having the opportunity to be at Boston University gives me a lot of resources, [like] technology. Remembering that I was dreaming about being here a year ago pushed me to study harder and to actually utilize those resources.”

Olivia Traboulssi DMD 27

“I learned to be comfortable with using my voice and accepting that there are a lot of avenues to take advantage of and learn from other individuals’ experiences. It’s definitely been challenging, but it’s something that I wouldn’t trade for the world because then I can use my lived experience to help others as well.”

Eder Garcia DMD 27

“It’s just challenging, to be honest… Sometimes, I feel it means starting from zero. It’s from the bottom, but you’re just working yourself up to what you want.”

Lucineia Boesing DMD AS 25

“It’s a privilege because my parents just had elementary school. I’m from Brazil, so for me, to be here, it’s a huge opportunity…I know this experience is going to bring a new life to my kids. It’s all about a cycle that is broken because of education.”


By Rachel Grace Philipson