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‘A Voice for First Gen’: Meet UCI’s Pioneering Creative Writing Outlet for Marginalized Students

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LUCID is a journal at UCI published annually and composed entirely of first-generation undergraduates’ creative writings and compositions. Their third and latest issue titled “The Worldbuilding Project” was published this fall quarter. The journal was founded in 2019 by UCI alum and composition lecturer Rachel Louise Collins along with fellow lecturer Scott Lerner.

The student-featured journal, made in collaboration with first-gen faculty members, is an expressive outlet for first-generation students here at UCI. From creative written works of varying genres to multimedia projects, LUCID gives its writers free range of expression with the only limit being the issue’s theme for the year.

When asked about her inspiration behind LUCID and her work with first-generation students, Collins discussed her own experience as a first-generation student herself and the need for expression in such a foundational period and time of uncertainty.

“One of the reasons I started doing first-gen advocacy was because I was a first-gen student with [a] kid here at UCI. I graduated here as an undergrad in 2001 and I had a two-year-old when I first came in, so when people would give me a list of resources I would [say] ‘I can’t. I’m carrying 19 units, I have a kid, all I can do is go to class and try to get good grades,’” Collins said.

The vision for LUCID was, and remains to be, giving first-gen students a voice or to provide an outlet for first-gen students to find their voice and express themselves. All of the students who participate in LUCID’s publications are typically volunteers, many having never been officially published before. 

“What we envisioned at the time was kind of like a calm journal that just highlights [and amplifies] first-gen voices. We didn’t have all of this stuff, I think, the university was just starting to really highlight first-gen stuff,” Collins said.

Besides the students that submit their works for publication, Collins also looks to her own students, trying to highlight the voices that she would see within the writing classes she teaches. Second-year undeclared student Alejandro Cabrera-Maldonado was one of these voices and became LUCID’s first intern in the 2021 winter quarter. 

“I grew a bond with [Collins] and one day, she asked me if I wanted to intern for LUCID journal. She wanted me [to handle] the social media aspect of the journal because she wanted it to grow and she knew it was vital to LUCID’s growth,” Cabrera-Maldonado said. 

Though he is no longer an intern for LUCID this year, he still is very active in LUCID’s endeavors, even having contributed to the journal’s latest issue himself. Cabrera-Maldonado also considers LUCID a good support system for him as a first-generation student. 

Currently, the journal has three published issues, with its latest being a reflection of the re-opening period following the effects of the pandemic. Like many new organizations, LUCID is still in its early stages and “nurturing phase,” as described by Cabrera-Maldonado. Its main headquarters are located in Collins’ office in the Humanities Instructional Building.

But for Collins, Cabrera-Maldonado and the many students who contribute to the publication, LUCID has become a community for them despite its size.

“I think that LUCID is like a safe space for first-gen students to [find] community. I think that anyone who interacts with LUCID or has a conversation with any of us for even five minutes, can tell that it’s not superficial. We care to know people, we care to get people to tell their stories and we care to celebrate them once they do,” Cabrera-Maldonado said.

For more information on the publication or submission process, students can check out LUCID’s website sites.uci.edu/lucid and their Instagram @lucid_journal.


Makyla McLeod is a Campus News Intern for the fall 2022 quarter. She can be reached at msmcleod@uci.edu.