As The Power of Penn Campaign works to remove barriers to higher education through programs like Penn First Plus, a new initiative that will provide financial and programmatic support to first-generation and low-income undergraduates, Penn’s graduate and professional schools are debuting innovative new programs that promote access and increase resources for their first-generation students.
Thanks to a generous gift from David Silk, L’88, Penn Law has established the First Generation Fellows program. Open to students who are among the first in their families to attend graduate or professional school, the program will provide fellows with guidance from a team of advisors, along with opportunities to learn from distinguished legal practitioners and take part in an exclusive speaker series. The program, which will be administered by Penn Law’s Center on Professionalism, will begin next fall and will support six students over six years.
“Fellows will enjoy personally tailored professional development supports that include executive communication coaching, professional technology training, interaction with a team of engaged mentors, and one year of post-graduation executive coaching to smooth the transition to practice,” said Jennifer Leonard, L’04, Associate Dean for Professional Engagement and Director of the Center on Professionalism.
“For first-generation professionals, the transition is as important as the formal training that preceded it,” said Silk, a partner at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and board member of Penn Law’s Institute for Law & Economics.
He added, “I am very grateful for what Penn Law has done for me, and it is incumbent upon the University and the Law School to try to make this kind of education and opportunity available as broadly as they can to qualified students.”
And while the Law School provides programmatic support, Penn Law students have formed a vibrant community through the First Generation Professionals affinity group. Founded in 2017 by Chet Eckman, L’17, Akbar Hossain, L’18, and Steven Mills, L’19, the group connects first-generation students and works to provide mentorship, networking, and advocacy.
They noted that for students who are the first in their family to attend law school, one of the big hurdles is a lack of information. They don’t arrive on campus knowing how to navigate the interview process with big law firms or the public interest law job market.
But the First Generation group works to provide that knowledge and foster a sense of community. Past events organized by the group have included admitted-student outreach; sessions on law firm careers, clerkships, and interviewing; and engagement with high school students participating in moot court competitions held at Penn Law.
The Power of Penn Campaign makes the first-generation student experiences of graduates and undergraduates a top priority. Penn Law’s First Generation Fellows program allows students from all walks of life and all backgrounds to succeed both in the classroom and in their careers.