In an attempt to widen career prospects and make job searches less daunting for first-generation and low-income students, Columbia’s Office of Alumni and Development has partnered with students to launch the Columbia First-Generation Low-Income Alumni Network this semester.
CFLAN is now one of 14 shared-interest alumni groups at Columbia that bring together students and alumni with shared backgrounds and interests. The group distinguishes between first-generation and low-income members, but places them under the same umbrella because economic issues are also central to the obstacles faced by many first-generation students, according to FLIP National’s External Affairs Director John Kotey, SEAS ’17.
Students involved with the First-Generation Low-Income Partnership were first approached by administrators about starting CFLAN last May, Kotey said.
The group held its kickoff event, an alumni happy hour, at the end of August, and has since drawn in over 70 members.
“The turnout was great. We had students who just graduated and we had members who were in their 40s or 50s,” FLIP member and CFLAN board member Erin Cao, CC ’17, said.
In the coming year, CFLAN hopes to grow its network by expanding its base of young alumni, with the ultimate goal of establishing a mentorship program.
“A lot of young alumni coming out of college do need a little bit of guidance or would like some guidance into how to navigate the professional world. FLIP does a really good job for students coming into college,” Cao said. “We are hoping to do the same thing with CFLAN.”
CFLAN will also channel alumni attention to issues that FLIP is aiming to address, including supporting low-income students struggling with the costs of transportation and food.
“The first-generation, low-income identity deals with the ability to navigate college,” Kotey said. “Having an alumni group that provides support in this manner is essential.”
Students and alumni who identify as first-generation or low-income can join sign up for the network through its Google form.