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Wednesday, October 16, 2019

From the Vice President for Student Affairs

Posted: Thursday, November 8, 2018

Celebrating First-Generation College Students

I was a first-generation college student—the first in my family to complete my four-year and graduate degrees. Some of my other senior administrative colleagues, administrators, and faculty members across the campus (including our president) also identify as first-generation college students.

This year on November 8, institutions of higher education across the country have dedicated a day to recognize this group of students on college campuses. Organized by the Center for First-Generation Student Success, the 2018 First-Generation College Celebration is important, as being a first-gen student comes with its own set of experiences and potential challenges. My experience as a first-generation student included confusion on how to navigate the financial aid process, struggling to understand the importance of deeply engaging with academic content, and finding the right balance of studying and being active socially.

Though these challenges may also have been similar for my peers who were not first-generation, I didn’t have people in my family to ask how they navigated this process and these issues. I was fortunate to have peers who were hired to help students like me, and I learned several things by trial and error. I vividly remember the many times when I doubted whether I had made the right choice when deciding to attend college. I struggled with choosing a major, and with being confident about making it to graduation. I had big dreams and a family that loved and encouraged me, and these things, combined with peer support and faculty mentors, helped tremendously; however, I didn’t start college with advice from my family about the importance of getting to know faculty, or how office hours could be helpful in addressing any classroom struggles (as well as connecting to faculty to identify paths to graduate study).

The most important thing I learned as a first-generation student was to remind myself that I deserved to be in college, was capable of graduating, and that when I struggled, failure was not an end but a beginning to mastering something I did not yet fully understand (math and statistics presented many of those opportunities).

At Buffalo State College, your faculty and staff celebrate the status of all their students, including those who are first-generation. On November 8 and every day, Buffalo State is engaging in efforts to support and address the needs of first-generation students (including many similar to the ones I faced) and helping them continue on the path to success. So be proud of your accomplishments—today and every day. Know that we are here for you, and remember that you can do anything you set your mind to.