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4th Annual Boston University, Duke University, UNC-Chapel Hill First-Gen Grad Student Symposium: Honoring Our First-Gen 1dentity

Friday, February 26, 2021 @ 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm

Join us for the 4th Annual BU/Duke/UNC First-Generation Graduate Student Symposium on Friday, February 26.

Please register using the appropriate link:

Boston Grad Student Registration:

Duke Grad Student Registration:

UNC Grad Student Registration:


2-2:10pm: Welcome

2:10-3pm: Keynote Facilitator & Student Facilitators sharing first-gen stories

3-3:10pm: Break

3:10-4pm: Breakout Session 1: First-gen Grad Student Experience and Communicating with Family and Friends at Home

4-4:10pm: Break

4:10-5pm: Breakout Session 2: Doctoral and Post-Doc Job Search, Master’s Job Search, Establishing your Brand and Networking

5:10-6pm: Plenary Session & Closing

Keynote Facilitator:

Patricia Harris

Patricia earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Savannah State University and obtained a master’s degree in counseling from Argosy University. She is currently pursuing a doctorate degree in higher education management from the University of Georgia. In 2019, she completed the Women in Education program at Harvard University. Patricia currently serves as the Director of Recruitment in the School of Education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Patricia is the owner and principal consultant for IKnowHigherEdu, LLC; an educational consulting company that specializes in helping first-generation students and families navigate through the college admission process. She sits on the governing board for Quest2College, a program designed to equip middle schoolers from low-income backgrounds with skills to increase their college-going self-belief. Throughout her career, she has been committed to equity, college access, and improving outcomes for minority students. She is a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Faculy/Student Facilitators:

Stefani Baca-Atlas

Stefani Baca-Atlas is a first-generation doctoral student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Social Work. She enjoys transdisciplinary research including public health, social and medical anthropology, and human rights. Her work focuses on structural violence, trauma, and health inequities among domestic and migrant populations. Stefani is on the advisory board of Carolina Grad Student F1RSTS.






Urann Chan

Urann grew up in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and immigrated to Massachusetts when he was six years old. Before Duke, he graduated from Brandeis University where he served on the Leadership Board for the Student Support Services Program, a national program within TRiO geared towards helping disadvantaged students. As both a first-gen college and graduate student, he is incredibly thankful for all of his past and present mentors. As a way to give back, he devotes his time to mentoring the next generation of scholars through Duke F1RSTS, Científico Latino, and his departmental mentoring programs.






Taylor Mahoney

Originally from Charlestown, MA, Taylor Mahoney is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biostatistics at Boston University. Her primary research interest involves developing statistical methods for adaptive design clinical trials. Taylor attended Simmons University in Boston, MA where she majored in biostatistics and minored in both mathematics and biology. As a low-income first-generation college student, Taylor found the transition from high school to college much more difficult than her peers who came from college-educated families. Similarly, when transitioning from undergrad to graduate school, it was challenging for Taylor to find her niche amongst a group of peers where just about all of their parents had a graduate degree. Taylor is excited to be at Boston University and share her experiences with folks!


Jen’nan Read, Ph.D.
Sally Dalton Robinson Professor
Chair, Department of Sociology

Jen’nan Read is the Sally Dalton Robinson Professor and Chair of Sociology and Professor of Global Health at Duke University. Professor Read is a Carnegie Scholar whose research focuses on social determinants of U.S. health disparities and on the assimilation of Arabs and Muslims in the United States. She has published widely on these topics, including a book and numerous articles and has appeared as an expert on national and international outlets such as National Public Radio and Al-Jazeera English. Professor Read is the recipient of several prestigious awards and grants, including ones from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and Russell Sage Foundation.

Professor Read is a first-generation, low-income student who graduated Summa Cum Laude from Midwestern State University in 1995 as the Student Body President. She was named MSU’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year in 2008. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2001 and held a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Rice University in the James Baker Institute for Public Policy and Department of Sociology from 2001-2003. She was an Assistant and Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California-Irvine from 2003-2007 before joining Duke University in 2008.


Rachel Renbarger

Rachel Renbarger considers herself a first-generation, rural, and low-income Okie. She received her B.S. in Language Arts Education at the University of Oklahoma before teaching high school English, AP Language, and psychology. Based on her own background and her experiences in the classroom, she attained her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at Baylor University to better improve the American public education system. She now researches K-12 and postsecondary educational access and success for marginalized groups (e.g., Black, Latinx, first-generation). She lives in North Carolina and enjoys reading, hiking, listening to 80s music, and being with her partner and their cats. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_Rachel_Ren or contact her via her website



Breakout Room Facilitators:

Camille G. Mason

Camille G. Mason is the Career Services Coordinator for the Gillings School of Public Health. She received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Wisconsin – Madison and her Master of Education from Winthrop University. Ms. Mason is experienced in providing comprehensive career services to a diverse population of students, including career development, job search, and graduate school preparation, and major exploration.  Apart from helping students, she enjoys traveling, sewing, yoga, and spending time with family and friends.





Brian Rybarczyk

Brian Rybarczyk, Ph.D. (he/him/his) identifies as a first-generation student (college and graduate school). He coordinates and implements academic and professional development training for graduate students across disciplines, teaches courses, and facilitates workshops. He directs the Preparing International Teaching Assistants Program (PITAP); is Associate Director for the SPIRE Postdoctoral Fellowship program and is co-administrative director/institutional representative at UNC for the Center for the Integration of Research, Teaching, and Learning (CIRTL) Network. Dr. Rybarczyk works with undergraduate students, graduate students, and postdoctoral scholars from diverse backgrounds in support of their transitions during their education and into various career trajectories. Find him on Twitter @uncbrybar



Friday, February 26, 2021
2:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Category:


Chapel Hill, NC 27599 United States