Q: What inspired you to work with first-generation students?
A: I am a first-generation college student, so I understand how difficult it can be to find resources and adjust. Puget Sound was actually the first college campus I ever visited. I ended up going to Gonzaga University, where I majored in psychology and minored in communication studies. Even when I was a student, I worked with other first-generation students of color and helped lead a pre-orientation program. I didn’t go to college thinking I wanted to work in higher education, but after graduation and after spending four years helping students like me, I knew I wanted to get a job where I could support student success.
Q: What does your work entail as Puget Sound’s student success advisor?
A: Most of my day is spent meeting one-on-one with students. Sometimes students are referred to me, or they make an appointment. The reasons vary. They could be struggling in a class, or they need help with time management or some guidance in creating a study plan to prepare for a big test, or they aren’t sure how to communicate with their professor. I like to think of myself as someone who can help hold them accountable for what they want to accomplish. I try to be the kind of person that I would’ve wanted as my advisor when I was feeling anxious about emailing one of my professors.
Q: Let’s talk about your other role on campus as the co-chair of the First-Generation Students Committee.
A: Our committee is dedicated to supporting and creating community amongst first-generation students. It can feel isolating to be away from home and not know how to talk to your friends or your family about your experience in college, so our aim is to have some educational programs, but also to have some fun. This year, we held an event for parents of first-generation students to give them an orientation to Puget Sound and who their child could turn to for support. We also went to the Washington State Fair and had a great time going on rides and eating fair food. National First-Generation College Celebration Day is Nov. 8, so we’ll also have an event to congratulate our students on making it this far, which be on Nov. 9 from 12 to 1:30 p.m. Being a first-generation student is a strength rather than a deficit and we want to celebrate the unique perspectives they bring to Puget Sound.
Q: Why is it important to have these programs in place to help first-generation students navigate college life?
A: For me, when I first got to college, there was a sense that I was supposed to know everything. I was supposed to know what the registrar’s office does and that you should go to your professor’s office hours if you have a question. We often expect students to have all of that figured out because they’ve heard about college from their parents or their siblings, but when you’re the first person from your family to go to college, there’s no blueprint for you to follow. It can feel like you’re the only one who is struggling. So, it’s important to give students those tools early on so they can have the opportunity to complete their college education. If I can start helping them make connections to resources on campus from the start, then, hopefully, they won’t run into as many barriers in the future. It isn’t about getting a 4.0; it’s about feeling like they belong here, that they have a community, and that they always have someone to talk to. I want them to know it’s okay to ask for help. You don’t have to figure it all out on your own.
Q: How do you spend your time away from work?
A: Since finishing college, I’ve gotten back into reading for fun. Romance novels are usually my thing, but I’m challenging myself to try other genres. I just read a horror novel for the first time—The Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix—and it was so good. If it sounds interesting and has a good cover, I’ll probably give it a try.