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Penn First Plus is part of the University's effort to support first-generation, low-income students.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

Penn is set to host the 2023 1vyG Conference — the largest first-generation, low-income conference for college students in the nation — this upcoming February.

The annual 1vyG Conference takes place at a different Ivy League university every year. Event planners said that the goal of 1vyG is to bring greater awareness to the issues that FGLI students face. The conference will be held at Penn for the first time since 2018, which attracted 350 attendees, including 275 students from other universities.

This year's conference will also be the first one held since 2020 as health and safety protocol during the COVID-19 pandemic prevented large gatherings from taking place.

1vyG Committee co-chair and College senior Ashwarya Devason believes the opportunity to host this conference comes with heavy expectations.

“It’s definitely a big responsibility to make sure the conference runs smoothly and that we have really amazing programming,” Devason said. “The last conference was really good. We have some shoes to fill.”

Devason, an international student from Martitius who identifies as FGLI, attended the 2020 conference at Cornell University as a first-year student.

“It was a really rewarding experience because I got to meet so many people from different universities,” Devason said. “[1vyG is] a space where you can learn from each other and see what’s going on at other schools. It’s also a great way to network beyond your school.”

The theme of this year’s conference is “opening up the definition of FGLI,” according to Devason. College senior Victoria Garcia, co-chair of the 1vyG Committee, said that event organizers are interested in exploring the FGLI identity and how it impacts college students at universities like Penn.

“The definition of FGLI really changes between who you're talking to and what parts of the university and which university you're at,” Garcia said. “Especially at these elite institutions, definitions can become even more difficult to understand.”

Penn First Plus, the University’s center for assisting students from marginalized socioeconomic backgrounds, defines the FGLI identity as students who are the "first in their family to pursue a four-year baccalaureate degree or come from modest financial circumstances.” At Penn, around 46% of students receive need-based financial aid in the form of grants, according to Student Registration and Financial Services.

Garcia, who said she identifies as FGLI, hopes the conference will allow students to connect with administrators to push for change.

“Our goal is to bring together undergrads and graduate students, talk to administration, and share ideas between the universities so that they can improve the spaces for FGLI students,” Garcia said.

The event coordinators said they want to encourage all students who are interested, regardless of their background, to attend the conference.

“The goal here is not to put people in very narrow boxes. The goal here is just to get resources to people who need it,” Garcia said.