First Generation Students

Students who are first in their families to attend college arrive at Columbia with the skills, inner resources and ambition needed to suceed here. However, for some first generation students negotiating university life it can be much more challenging without the benefit of the knowledge and support that families with deeper roots in higher education can provide; and for some there is the additional challenge of reconciling their cultures of origin with that of the university environment. All the professionals at CPS are dedicated to fostering personal wellness and development among students who are the first in their families to attend college.  

Below you will find a list of CPS counselors and psychiatrists who may be especially good matches for students who are the first in their families to attend college. However, please note that if your situation is urgent and a particular counselor with whom you would like to work is not immediately available, it is generally not wise delaying in seeking assistance. Rather it is best to initiate treatment with a counselor who is more immediately available; you are always welcome to transfer to a different counselor at a later date.


Debra Domenech, Senior Psychologist

Being the first in family to attend college presents a multitude of unique circumstances and challenges. While exciting and empowering, it can also present struggles with issues of finding role models and mentors, raise questions about identities, potentially disrupt existing relationships and affect feelings of self-esteem and self-worth. When working with others who are first generation, Debra attends to how these issues are negotiated and how they influence emotional well-being in the context of academia, work and interpersonal relationships. Debra is fluent in Spanish

Carolina Franco, Psychologist

Carolina immigrated to New York form the Dominican Republic as a child. As a young adult she moved to Europe and experienced voluntary migration. These experiences cemented her passion for multicultural psychology.  Always attending to the challenges inherent in negotiating multiple cultures, Carolina employs a strength-based therapeutic approach that views immigration and multiculturalism as expansive experiences that can fuel incredible growth.  She is particularly interested in first generation or 'New American' identity development as well as in understanding and harnessing the resilience in people with marginalized identities. She has experience and training in group, couple, and family therapy modalities. Carolina is fluent in Spanish, and loves to use it.

Anne Goldfield, Psychologist and Associate Director for Outreach

Anne is a graduate of the City College of New York and was the first in her family to attend college.  Through her interactions with first gen students on campus, Anne has developed a deep appreciation for the strengths, as well as the many challenges along the way, of being the first in one’s family to attend college.  At Columbia, Anne has collaborated with student groups and administrators to provide opportunities for first gen students to connect with each other and to gain support through hearing what other first-in -family students have experienced.   She is committed to maximizing access to resources for all students.

Sául Gomez, Psychologist

Saúl has worked with first generation students at Columbia in his role as therapist at CPS, as a representative in our outreach efforts to the Columbia community, and in his work to develop and launch a support group for men of color at Columbia. He recognizes that first generation students can face unique challenges, and they often do so without the benefit of the knowledge and support that families with deeper roots in higher education can provide. Saul’s personal experiences and his ongoing work with this population motivate his desire to support first generation Columbia students interested in counseling services. Saul is fluent in Spanish.

Doreen Han-Faver, Psychiatrist

Doreen is a first generation immigrant who grew up in Taiwan and New York.  She worked for many years in a mental health clinic in Chinatown helping children/adolescents and their families who often have some difficulties bridging cultural and generational differences.  She understands the challenges many students face in reconciling between their families and cultures of origin and the more main stream American college culture. Doreen is fluent in Mandarin.

Diana Morrobel, Psychologist

Diana Morrobel, Ph.D. is a bilingual (Spanish/English), bicultural, first generation college graduate.  From her early work as a high school mentor to her years working at a large mental health clinic that primarily served recent immigrants, Diana has gained experience in helping individuals navigate the transition and challenges that some students may face as a first generation college student.    Diana recognizes the importance of providing each student with support that meets their needs while being respectful of their cultural context and identities.  As part of Columbia University’s Counseling and Psychological Services, Diana has had the privilege of working with numerous first generation students and looks forward to continue to foster a relationship with the FLIP community.

Annette Santiago-España, Psychologist

Annette was the first in her family to graduate from college and was a graduate of the Educational Opportunity Fund program at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. Soon after graduation, Annette worked for the EOF program for four years at Cumberland County College in South Jersey. She served as a career specialist encouraging first generation high school and college students to pursue their lifelong goals. Annette finds her work with first general college students incredibly fulfilling. She recognizes the unique challenges these students face and is aware of the profound difference having support can make in the lives of these students. Annette is fluent in Spanish.

Support Groups

From time to time, when there is student interest, CPS is pleased to offer support groups and other special programs for first generation students. We also welcome hearing from student groups who would like to partner with us in developing programs to serve the FLIP community. Contact our Associate Director for Outreach, Dr. Anne Goldfield, at

Please Note

CPS psychiatrists focus on medication consultation and management. Upon first coming to CPS, students ordinarily meet with a social worker, psychologist or postdoctoral psychology fellow. If together with your counselor you decide you would like to evaluate whether medication may be useful, you will then have the option of meeting with a CPS psychiatrist, and may, if you like, request one of the psychiatrists listed above. Again, however, if your situation is urgent, we recommend you do not delay seeking psychiatric assistance.

Last updated October 11, 2017