BU’s Newbury Center Hosts Sixth Annual First-Gen Graduate Student Symposium

Keynote speaker is alum Jonathan Allen, cofounder of Boston-based nonprofit Leadership Brainery

The graduate student experience can be drastically different from the undergraduate experience. From research and conferences to teaching responsibilities and finding off-campus housing, there are plenty of new, confusing frontiers to navigate—and doubly so if you’re the first person in your family to pursue an advanced degree.

That’s just one of the reasons why Newbury Center’s director, Maria Dykema Erb, founded the First-Generation Graduate Student Symposium while working at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

That’s also why she brought it with her when she came to Boston University in 2021. On Friday, February 24, BU will host the sixth annual symposium—the largest to date. As of February 22, the free event had reached capacity at 285 participants.

“Graduate school can already be very isolating, and you might be the only first-gen student in your department,” says Erb, herself a first-gen undergrad and graduate student, who has written about the need to support first-gen graduate students. “As with much of the Newbury Center’s work, the goal of the symposium is to build community among first-gen students.”

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