Sophomore Carlos Gomez Lopez could have decided to live off campus next year as many upperclassmen chose to do, but instead he wanted to live in the First Generation Living Learning Community. Being a part of the Odyssey program, he always felt like he had a support system when it came to being first-gen, but he knew that not every first-gen student has that. 

Lopez moved into Colonnades his freshman year and noticed his peers knew a bit more of what college would be like because their parents had already been in their shoes. Lopez said he felt like he was going in blind because he couldn’t go to his parents for advice. Just like Lopez, college was brand new to them.

“I feel like first-gen definitely is an identity I identify with so if I knew it was an option when I applied my freshman year, I definitely would have went for it,” Lopez said.

Paula DiBiasio, professor of physical therapy education, will be one of the advisers for the LLC and said she had been working on this idea since 2022.

DiBiasio and Oscar Miranda, the previous assistant director of first-generation student support services, had put together a student group of first-gen students and teamed up with Center for Design Thinking to come up with ideas on how to support first-gen students. That is how the idea for an LLC came up. Kenneth Brown filled the role in June 2023 and now serves as Elon’s assistant director of first-generation student support services, and is continuing this work.

Lilly Molina | Elon News Network
This poster is outside Kenneth Brown’s office, for first-generation students to add their experiences.

Brown said having a first-generation LLC, while new to Elon, is something seen at universities across the country.  

“We’re not doing anything innovative. We are not doing anything new,” Brown said. 

The LLC will be called “First Phoenix” and will be located on the third floor of Colonnades E. Brown said a portion of its mentoring program will be embedded in the LLC. 

“Any upperclassmen student who lives on the floor will serve as a mentor for any first-year student who is on the floor,” Brown said. 

Brown said he thinks this will help get a formalized base for the LLC’s mentoring program. He said it would also help them be a stellar example of what mentorship can look like for the university. 

Both DiBiasio and Brown agreed the LLC will be student-driven and hope after next year the residents will come to them with more meaningful ideas to implement into the floor. They want First Phoenix to be a place for belonging and overall a safe space for first-gen students. 

“A sense of belonging contributes to so many positive outcomes,” DiBaisio said. “In achievement in completing your degree, in connecting with others and success and in the ways that students define for themselves. That belonging is the foundational key to that.”

In addition, Brown and DiBiasio said they hope the LLC is a space for everyone, regardless whether or not they are first-gen . They want it to be a hang-out spot where students can bring their friends and hope that the LLC is a way for students to meet new people. 

DiBiasio and Brown did say that the freshmen on the floor will be placed in the same COR 1100: The Global Experience class to build a closer bond within the cohort.

“First generation can be a very invisible identity for some students on campus,” Brown said. 

Freshman and first-generation student Edward Hernandez works in the Center for Access and Success where the first-gen office is located. He said since he got onto Elon’s campus he’s been wanting a first-generation LLC. While Hernandez already has housing plans, he said he is excited about the community First Phoenix will help grow. 

“I think first-gen students won’t feel alone,” Hernandez said. 

Brown said he hopes this initiative will help strengthen the first-gen community here on campus and just help first-gen students feel supported. 

“I want students to have a place that they can come home to and that they can fully be themselves in whatever version of themselves they are over the span of the year,” Brown said.