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Summer Celebrations: Two More Gen-1 Students Will Achieve Their Degrees

UC’s Gen-1 Theme House celebrates its first graduates in 2013.

Date: 4/22/2013 7:30:00 AM
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos By: Dottie Stover
UC’s Gen-1 Theme House opened in 2008 to provide a 24/7 structured living and learning environment for students who are most at risk for dropping out of college. In 2013, the Gen-1 Theme House celebrates its first graduates, as N’deye Ba graduates in the spring, and Obye Davis and Tracy Steagall complete their degrees over the summer.
Obye Davis and Tracy Steagall
Obye Davis, left, and Tracy Steagall

As they approach Commencement, all three students are sharing the experiences of their transformation into college graduates – stories that will serve as an inspiration for the future Gen-1 students who will follow them to graduation.

Obye Davis, of Columbus, Ohio, lived at the Gen-1 Theme House his freshman year in 2008. Davis was among the first group of students to move into the house. He says he immersed himself in activities in and out of the classroom. “Everything that I learned in college, I learned by getting involved,” says Davis, who is finishing his bachelor’s degree in communication from the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.

Davis says one of his life-changing experiences at UC was applying and getting accepted to work as a Student Orientation Leader (SOL) for incoming freshmen during summer 2010. In that role, he led a flash mob at new student Convocation the following fall.

“I never thought I would have been able to do anything like that. I never thought I could have been a Student Orientation Leader, but I applied and got the job, and it really was a life-changer.

Obye Davis
Obye Davis

“I had attended an Africentric high school from K-12, so I was never in a classroom with someone of a different race,” says Davis. “During my summer as an SOL, I worked, ate and lived with so many different students, and it gave me a chance to see how the world was.”

“Obye has contagious energy,” says Sarah Leggesse, director of UC Orientation Services.  “He is passionate about the worthy causes he undertakes.  He is highly involved on campus and is well-liked and respected.”  

Davis was also co-founder of the UC student organization, Gentleman’s Quarterly, which is dedicated to increasing the graduation rate of black males at UC. The organization generates programming, professional development and leadership development for students.

Davis spent spring semester working as a community affairs intern in the Cincinnati Mayor’s Office.  Looking back on his college experience, he says he’s amazed that it went by so quickly.

He also shares advice for future first-generation students entering college. “Embrace the opportunity of college. Don’t just stay in your room all day when you’re finished with classes. Take yourself out of your comfort zone. Also, networking is very important, because your parents aren’t aware of the resources to help you succeed in college, so you need to network to find those resources.”

Although he’s completing credits this summer, Davis will be marching at UC’s spring Commencement ceremony, and says his family, including two younger, teen brothers, will be in attendance. “I hope that by the time that they get to UC, the house will be 10 times bigger,” says Davis.
Tracy Steagall
Tracy Steagall

Tracy Steagall, a graduate of Cincinnati Public’s Dater High School, will complete his bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences this summer, and is also earning a minor in business administration from the Carl H. Lindner College of Business. Steagall entered the Gen-1 Theme House in 2009 and stayed at the house his freshman and sophomore year at UC, when the program first expanded. He continued to serve as a student ambassador for the Gen-1 Theme House through his entire experience in college.

“From the very beginning, I found the Gen-1 Theme House to be helpful and resourceful,” says Steagall. “Some of us would have the same classes, so there was this attitude that, ‘You can’t fail because I’m not failing. If you need help, ask someone for help.’”

Steagall also immersed himself in experiences in and out of the classroom, including serving as treasurer for the Black Business Students Association and joining Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory’s Young Professional Kitchen Cabinet (YPKC), which has been highlighted as a model around the country.  The YPKC executes initiatives and recommends policies to recruit and retain young professionals in Cincinnati.  

Steagall credits one of his early UC mentors, Gail Kiley, assistant director of the A&S First Year Experience program, with encouraging him to join the YPKC. “She told me that it would be a great experience. I had behind-the-scenes access to different stadiums and also to meet the city police chief and city manager.”

Steagall’s advice to future Gen-1 students: “Don’t be the one who sits in the back of the class. If you’re interested in something that’s happening around the university, attend the meetings. There are a lot of resources here that can connect you to your first job after graduation.”

“Also,” says Steagall, “venture out.  If you don’t venture out, you miss out. Don’t end up saying, ‘I could have – should have.’ In college, you really get to know who you are. This is where you become an individual.”

Steagall adds of his fellow Gen-1 residents, “These are the friends I’ll keep in touch with long after college. Because of this experience, they’re friends who are here to stay.”

Related News: UC Celebrates the First Graduates of the Gen-1 Theme House

Read More About UC’s Gen-1 Theme House

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