A Few Resources for Incoming First-Gen Students @ UCSB

By Lance Cortez

Transitioning to university life can be extremely difficult. You’re moving away from home for the first time, all while being introduced to the rigors of university-level work and a new social setting. All of these conditions can be overwhelming to navigate, especially as a first-gen student.

If you’re a new or incoming first-gen student and feeling lost, have no fear! Here are a few of the resources that you can tap into early on throughout your time at UCSB.

Summer Programs

Summer Transitional Enrichment Program (STEP) + Summer Transfer Transitional Program (STTP)

STEP is a one-week transitional summer program for incoming first-year students, usually held in early August. Throughout STEP, students receive a taste of the university experience at a much more personalized level: the experience of residential life, while residing and eating in college dorms and dining commons; an introduction to college coursework, including workshops and lectures; access to one-on-one counseling with your respective college and financial aid advising; lastly, and perhaps the most important, the chance to begin building a community with fellow first-gen students!

STTP is essentially the same as STEP but for transfers. The only difference is that STTP students will reside in university apartments during their stay, as opposed to a residence hall.

Still not sold? Here are a few testimonies from past STEPers and STTPers:

“Through STEP, I got to learn about all the different resources for first-gen students that the campus has to offer. Each of them has been extremely useful throughout my time at UCSB. Overall, the program helped me feel way more comfortable about the transition!”

Jocelyn Lemus-Valle

Me (holding up my coworker) and my STEPers when I worked as an RA for STEP 2018 Class of 2022

“During the program, I had the opportunity to meet other first-generation students that became close friends and with whom I have experienced growth and challenges. The attention and dedication that the advisors and staff have with incoming students make you feel welcomed and confident to ask any questions regarding your personal and academic experience in higher education.”

Carolina Ramirez Moreno

Class of 2021

“STTP prepared me to navigate UCSB and helped me make meaningful professional and personal networks. Thanks to the program, I was able to be more active on campus because I had learned about the opportunities available early on!”

Isidoro Espinoza-Barajas

Class of 2021

First-Gen Resources

Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) @ Student Resource Building (SRB) 2nd Floor

EOP is a student affairs department that provides a ton of services for first-generation, income-eligible students (you can check whether or not you qualify as an EOP student on GOLD by clicking under the “registration” tab and looking under “programs”). Here are just a few of the main resources that the department offers:

· Counseling: Students often refer to EOP as a “one stop shop” because you can talk to their counselors about anything—academics, financial hardships, stress, etc. Whatever it is, they’re there to help! (Shout out to Luther!)

· AS/EOP Grant: You won’t want to overlook this one. EOP students are eligible for up to $1,000 per academic year for any of the following expenses. Just make an appointment with a counselor to go over details.

o Medical/Optical/Dental Bills

o Graduate Program Testing Fees/Application Fees

o Textbook and Supplies (including broken laptops!)

o Academic/Research Conferences and Memberships

· Peer Mentorship/Programing: EOP is home to 22 trained student mentors, ready to assist and empower students. EOP Peer Mentors hold weekly office hours, where students can come in to receive mentorship, learn more about campus resources/support services, or just chat! Additionally, these mentors facilitate quarterly workshops on all kinds of topics related to the first-gen experience. Pro-tip: food/snacks are always served at these events, so if you’re ever on-campus and hungry, be sure to come through!

· First-Gen Peer Mentorship Program: 1st and 2nd year EOP students are strongly encouraged to apply for this program. Those who are accepted will be assigned an upper-classmen mentor with similar academic/career interests to guide them throughout the year. Follow the EOP IG page for updates!

The first cohort of the EOP Peer Mentorship Program in Fall of 2018

ONDAS Student Center (OSC) @ Kerr Hall 1150

Established in 2014 under the Title V Hispanic Serving Institute grant, the ONDAS Student Center promotes the success and retention of first-generation college students with an emphasis on the first-year transition and underrepresented student experience. Here’s a highlight of some of their services:

· Course Mentoring: There are six peer mentors—each involved in different spheres of campus life and with varying academic experiences—that provide course mentoring each quarter for select classes. You can come to them with any questions or guidance you might need pertaining to those courses, or anything else!

· Programing: In addition to all the wonderful programs put on by the OSC Peer Mentors, the center is particularly well-known for its events that provide students with an opportunity to connect with faculty in a fun and friendly way. If you’re looking to make these connections, make sure to check these events out!

· Advising: The OSC serves as a satellite office for other campus resources such as College of Letters & Science counseling and Financial Aid advising. More than often, these are counselors who were first-generation students themselves.

· Graduate School Guidance: The OSC also employs a graduate student who serves as a resource for students looking to learn about or apply to graduate school.

· Study Space: Lastly, students are always welcome to use the center as a study space!

Cultural Resource Centers (CRCs) @ Student Resource Building (SRB) 1st Floor

The EOP department oversees the operation of five cultural resource centers:

· African diasporic Cultural Resource Center (AdCRC)

· American Indian and Indigenous Cultural Resource Center (AIICRC)

· Asian Resource Center (ARC)

· Chicanx/Latinx Cultural Resource Center (CLCRC)

· Middle Eastern Resource Center (MERC)

All located on the first floor of the Student Resource Building (SRB), these centers provide students with a space to celebrate their culture while building community with other students. Each center holds weekly community hours, where anyone is welcome to use the space for studying, chilling, and even sleeping! During these hours, you might even find one of the CRC Peer Mentors who can assist you with any questions or help you might need.

The Student Resource Building (SRB) located next to the Pardall Tunnel

The CRCs are also known for programing cultural events, as well as hosting huge campus-wide celebrations such as Black Family Weekend and Celebración de la Familia. Follow them on IG or Facebook for updates!

Some Chill Study Spaces

El Centro @ Building 406 (Behind Davidson Library)

Tons of students walk past this brown, two-story building every day without ever knowing it’s a study space (or, for that matter, its historical and continuing legacy as a community organizing space for UCSB Latinx students). Recently renovated with colorful murals, beautiful displays of Latinx culture, and ample study spaces, you’ll definitely want to check this spot out!

Cultural Resource Centers (CRCs) @ Student Resource Building (SRB) 1st Floor

As previously mentioned, the CRCs are a great spot for studying! Although they’re definitely smaller in size, each of them is decked out with couches, tables, and sometimes even snack/tea stations!

Ethnic Studies @ Davidson Library 2nd Floor

This is one of my personal favorites. Located on the 2nd floor of the Davidson Library, this space is distinctly sectioned off for the rest of the library to house the university’s ethnic studies collection. In addition to being a great study space—complete with tables, individual desks, and computers—I’ve always found this spot to be a social hub for first-gen students. A little bit musty though, if you ask me!

ONDAS Study Space @ Kerr Hall 1150

Located in front of Davidson Library (mountain side), the OSC study space is open Monday-Friday from 9am-5pm. The space is beautifully lit with natural light and has four computers available for student use!

Helpful Links

UCSB First-Gen Website

Recently launched by the Office of Undergraduate Education, our very own first-gen website provides a resource guide for anything, and everything related to our community: news and updates, first-gen student/staff/faculty stories and spotlights, as well as a plethora of other helpful resources. One of the most important events that this website houses is UCSB’s annual #First-Gen welcome, held at the beginning of each academic year.

UCSB Keep Learning

Created in response to the challenges of attending the university during the pandemic, UCSB’s Keep Learning website houses a lot of the student resources related to virtual learning.

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