First-Generation Support Working Group (FIRST)


What is FIRST?

FIRST (First-Generation Support Working Group) is a student organization committed to facilitating community empowerment to promote belonging and success at the University of Virginia’s School of Education & Human Development among students who are the first in their families to pursue higher education.

What is the mission and vision of FIRST?

  • To build community among first-generation students in the School of Education and Human Development
  • To create an atmosphere that acknowledges and values the diverse set of identities that first-generation students encompass, including additional marginalized intersecting sociocultural attributes such as race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status
  • To uncover and address the institutional norms and deficit perspectives within our school and the University that impede the success of first-generation students
  • To foster a campus climate and culture that empowers first-generation students, through a strengths-based approach, to recognize and utilize the cultural capital they already possess from community and life experiences for success in higher education

Who are the FIRST Student Leaders?

LindsayCarlisleLindsay Carlisle (3rd-year Doctoral Student - Special Education; [email protected])
A first generation college student herself, Lindsay attained her bachelor’s from Lebanon Valley College in 2012, and her master’s from Longwood University in 2018. Lindsay grew up in South Jersey and spent 7 years as a special educator serving students in Philadelphia, Northern Virginia, and Central Virginia. Lindsay’s research interests pertain to the importance of effective communication across all facets of special education, including teaching, student well-being and achievement, as well as policy. In her free time, Lindsay loves being outside, learning to play the ukulele, spending time with friends and family, and running with her dog, Ollie.


Shoronda MatthewsShoronda Matthews (4th-year Doctoral Student - Educational Psychology/Applied Developmental Science; [email protected])
Shoronda is a first-generation Guyanese-American and originally from the Poconos area of Pennsylvania. She received her B.S. in Neuroscience and Psychology from the University of Scranton and her M.A. in General Psychology from Adelphi University. Her research explores how to teach science through digital learning. In her free time, she loves to read, watch reality tv and documentaries, and spend time with family and friends.


Jesse McCain (3rd-year Doctoral Student - Higher Education; [email protected])
Jesse's work explores issues of inequality, equity, and identity in college settings. His research uses qualitative methodologies and social theory to critically understand the socialization experiences of graduate students, with a particular focus on students from underrepresented backgrounds. Originally from Tucson, AZ, Jesse received his B.A. in Political Science and M.A. in Higher Education from the University of Arizona. He is also the first in his family to attend college.


Helen MinHelen Min (3rd-year Doctoral Student - Curriculum & Instruction; [email protected])
Helen's research interests include evaluating trauma-sensitive pedagogy, understanding the impact of trauma on learning, and assessing the influence of vicarious trauma on teachers. After graduating from the University of California - Davis, she taught in Cairo, Egypt; Baltimore City, MD; and Osaka, Japan. She received her M.S. in Secondary Education from Johns Hopkins University.


Theresa PfisterTheresa Pfister (3rd-year Doctoral Student - Educational Psychology/Applied Developmental Science; [email protected])
While her interests are varied, Theresa's research projects tend to focus on youth empowerment, equity, and social emotional learning. A fun fact is that Theresa has lived all over the country (and the world!). Originally from Friendship, WI, she attended Pomona College in California, volunteered with the Peace Corps in Ethiopia, and taught and college-advised in NYC.

Who are the FIRST Advisors?


Jessica Livingston

Her experience includes student programming, crisis management, admissions, and academic program management.

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Cody Lloyd

He is passionate about fostering an inclusive campus community which empowers first-generation college students to succeed.

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FIRST Engagement