Twisha Mohapatra, a sophomore at our university, has made notable contributions in addressing the needs of first-generation college students on our campus. During this time, she has been active in the River Hawk Scholars Academy (RHSA), a program that supports first-generation student success at UMass Lowell and is run through our Provost's Office. Through her work with the RHSA, she earned one of only nine positions for 2018-2019 as an RHSA Peer Leader, serving as an ally and mentor for the first-generation college students. She is currently co-leading a research effort that conducts focus groups to help assess the impact of the RHSA and potentially other important student-focused initiatives. As part of the training she received on student-led focus group methodology, Twisha will now work with our Director of Curriculum Assessment and Accreditation and the Faculty Director of the RHSA to lead the way in using what she has learned to train other students in this approach. Twisha truly has been an important part of the RHSA's success and we anticipate even greater achievements in her future. She has made a real difference in the lives of first-generation students on our campus.
When I started school as a freshman at UMass Lowell I was not aware of all the disadvantages first-generation students face. I started hearing personal stories from friends who were first-generation students and I started to realize the major setbacks they encounter in college. I became a peer leader for the River Hawk Scholars Academy (RHSA) at UMass Lowell to become actively engaged in helping these students. The RHSA is a program that promotes the success of freshman first-generation college students by providing peer leaders. These peer leaders help students navigate their way through college, including functioning as a support group for students. My experience as a Peer Leader has shown me the value of peer mentorship in guiding freshman students to avoid mistakes I had made my first year. Additionally, I am a part of the pilot program for student-led focus groups to address community issues at UMass Lowell. Currently we are working on improving the RHSA for the following school year to better meet the needs of students. My future goals include continuing to work on the student-led focus groups to better improve the university community and obtaining a Masters of Business Management.