First-Gen Registry

Dear Reader . . .

We all come from different backgrounds; however, what unites us is the unique journey we take as first-generation students. We hope that some of these featured stories and advice resonate with you. 

And always remember . . .


Demetra Andrews

What advice would you give first-generation students? "Remember, when firms make hiring decisions, they are not hiring 'a degree.' They are hiring people with knowledge that will be useful to the firm. Make sure that you are developing that knowledge." —Clinical Associate Professor of Marketing, Kelley School of Business

Amanda Briggs

What advice would you give first-generation students? "Never be afraid to ask a question. I wish I had asked more questions in college. I was so worried that someone would find out that I didn’t belong, and that’s just silly. Of course I belonged!" —Director of Marketing Communication, Fairbanks School of Public Health

Karina Cruz

Tell us about a time in college that played a big impact on your success?"The biggest impact I had in my time in college was getting involved and working on campus. Being involved on campus helped me to find my passion for working in higher education. From these experiences, I found my passion to go to graduate school to work on campus." —Academic Advisor, School of Education

Deborah DeMeester

Tell us about a time in college that played a big impact on your success? "My patients. Caring for patients during my undergraduate nursing clinicals motivated me to continue to work hard so that I could become that RN who could make a difference in their lives." —Clinical Associate Professor, School of Nursing

Gloria Diaz

What was your motivation for applying to and attending college? "Coming from an immigrant family background, I was exposed early on to the struggles my parents faced for having limited education and resources. Seeing their struggles and sacrifices to provide my sister and I a better life, inspired me to take advantage of the opportunities provided to me here in the U.S." —Academic and Career Support Coordinator, Diversity Enrichment and Achievement Program, University College

Jose Espada

What was your motivation for applying to and attending college?"Having run away from home at the age of 13 years old due to step-father abuse, I found a place to live (a halfway house for juvenile delinquents) and supported myself by working at the Old Gas House in Fort Wayne. In my last year of high school, I was approached by Alvin Harris, a guidance counselor at North Side High School about recommending me to the Groups Program at IU-Bloomington. Although my grades in high school were horrible, Alvin saw promise. I was able to prove myself by receiving near a 4.00 GPA that first summer at IU and continued doing well with mentoring from the likes of Michael Gordon and others finishing with a 3.5 GPA from IU School of Music in Music Education." —Director of Student Financial Services, School of Medicine

Patricia Esparza

If you could go back to college, what do you wish you had known during college? "I wish I would have known that it is not about the number of friends or connections you make, but the quality of the friendship. Focus on those who help inspire you to keep going and who push you to do better." —Researcher/Technician, Department of Pediatrics, IU School of Medicine

Ali Godby-Schwab

What was your motivation for applying to and attending college? "I was attending a wedding reception for one of our faculty members when I sat down with another faculty member's husband, who turned to me and said, 'I understand you don't have a college degree. Why is this?' I gave him the usual excuses about lack of time, energy, and money. He didn't buy my excuses. He told me I was one of the most intelligent people he knew, but unfortunately without a degree, many wouldn't give weight to my opinion. He told me to quit the excuses and start investing in myself. Something about that resonated with me, and I applied to IUPUI (now IU Indianapolis) and Labor Studies the next week." —Fiscal Coordinator, School of Social Work

Kenda Hamersley

What advice would you give to first-generation students? "Do not give up. Sometimes you have to take a step back or readjust your expectations in order to achieve your plan." —Associate Director of the Mathematics Assistance Center (MAC), Department of Mathematical Sciences, School of Science

Emily Hunnicutt

If you could go back to college, what do you wish you had known during college? "I was so focused on fitting in and not wanting to let others know that I felt like an impostor in college. I never gave myself the chance to figure out what my own interests, values, and beliefs were." —Assistant Director, 21st Century Scholars, Division of Undergraduate Education

Marva Hunt

What advice would you give first-generation students?"Don't be afraid to be the first; don't be afraid to ask questions; don't be afraid to fail, we learn from our mistakes!" —Director of Undergraduate Programs, Kelley School of Business

Stacey Kalima

If you could go back to college, what do you wish you had known during college?"I wish I had worked on my confidence. I have learned that this can play a big role in achievement!" —Director of Recruitment, School of Social Work

Ann Kimble-Hill

What advice would you give to first-generation students? "Have a goal and always keep that in your sights. Keep friends around you that have similar goals and will support you in getting there. Always have a study group where you're not the smartest person there (spend that time learning instead of always teaching)." —Assistant Research Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, School of Medicine

Elizabeth Malatestinic

What advice would you give to first-generation students? "Get involved in campus activities. They're a great way to build leadership skills and establish new friendships at the same time." —Teaching Professor, Kelley School of Business

Allie Medellin

What was your motivation for applying to and attending college? "My parents were teenagers when they had me. My mother put her dream of becoming a nurse on hold so she could raise children at a young age. My mother instilled in me the value of an education and its power to take me wherever I wanted to go. My mother was my motivation to attend and succeed in college, and she continues to be my cheerleader today. I now have a master's degree in social work, and my mother went back to school here at IUPUI (now IU Indianapolis) and fulfilled her dream of becoming a registered nurse. Today she is a nurse practitioner, and my passion for education has led me to a career in higher ed." —Assistant Director, Internship and Career Advising, PREPs, School of Science

Brooke Merry

Tell us about a time in college that played a big impact on your success? "When I started college, I was on a type of probation since my test scores and high school grades weren't very strong. I ended up having a baby and leaving school for a while. My start to college was somewhat rocky, but when I came back, I was nominated by faculty for a scholarship, which I received, and I was on the dean's list. Receiving the scholarship helped me to be sure that I was in the right place and doing the right thing. I also learned that it's okay to take a break and try again." —Graduate Programs Coordinator, McKinney School of Law

Niki Messmore

What was your motivation for applying to and attending college?"It was in middle school after a softball game when we were discussing college among friends. One 'friend' said, "But Niki, you can't go to college, you don't have any money!" It was then I dedicated myself to getting enough scholarships so I could go. For me, college meant freedom and a ladder out of poverty." —Director of Medical Service Learning, School of Medicine

Ashley Msikinya

What was your motivation for staying in school and completing college? "The end goal. I knew that without my college education, the jobs available to me were not the jobs I wanted. Also, quite a bit of stubbornness, aka persistence and grit. I'd been told I couldn't or shouldn't go to college and had fought and worked hard to get where I was, so there was no way I was going to allow anyone to have been right about that. I knew that despite the hardships and long hours and working through my summers, I would successfully graduate." —Academic Advisor, Office of Student Engagement and Success, School of Health and Human Sciences

Jason Palamara

What was your motivation for staying in school and completing college?"It's a pretty awesome thing to be the first in your family to get a college degree, but it's not without its trials. You will often be surrounded by people who seem to take for granted the privilege you have earned by sheer will. Try not to resent them for their ignorance, nor be jealous of their fortunate head start. It matters a great deal more where we end up in life than where we started from." —Assistant Professor of Music and Arts Technology, Department of Music and Arts Technology, School of Engineering and Technology

JaMon Paschall

What was your motivation for staying in school and completing college?"To stay the course, as the investment in yourself and your education is far worth it. It can be very difficult to have little guidance arriving to college and trying to figure it all out on the fly. For many students at IU Indianapolis, there is a community for first-generation students. IU Indianapolis is designed to truly help all students transition as best as possible. I still am great friends with all the students I started with at IUPUI (now IU Indianapolis) who were all first-gen students." —Assistant Director of Admissions, Kelley School of Business

Nancy Ramirez

What advice would you give to first-generation students?"Do not doubt yourself! We don’t have many people to look up to, as far as professionals, but that doesn’t mean that we are not worthy or that it’s not possible. You may even have to work harder. We don’t have the connections that other students have. Our parents don’t work as professionals in companies that they can hook us up with. So we have to prove what we can do by working hard. Look for financial assistance, complete an internship, don’t be afraid to ask your advisor questions, and surround yourself with highly motivated students. It is important to have a support group of students who you can count on, even if it’s just to share memes that you can all relate to." —Computer and Application Support Technician, School of Medicine

George Sandusky

What advice would you give first-generation students? "Never, never, give up!" —Senior Research Professor of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, School of Medicine

Justin Spellman

Tell us about a time in college that played a big impact on your success?"They always say college is a lot different than high school. Simply put, I had to learn early on that saying was quite the truth during my first semester. I had some setbacks and had to learn a few lessons, but the next semester, I was able to bounce back when coming in with a mindset that I was willing to work hard!" —Admissions Secretary/Assistant Recorder, School of Social Work

Jeff Steele

What advice would you give to first-generation students?"Keep a vision. Understand that others who come from families in which going to college was expected and normal will never quite understand some of the hurdles you must jump. Don't get bogged down by being different than the normal culture. Transportation, the need to work while in school, the lack of funds for some extracurricular invitations, and the need for tutoring are all possible, but will never be thought about again once you graduate and are working in your chosen field." —Assistant Professor, School of Dentistry

Patrick Sullivan

What advice would you give to first-generation students?"Go to class, do the readings, communicate with faculty. Visit them in their office. Get a peer group that is goal-oriented and positive and use each other for support." —Chancellor's Professor, School of Social Work

Erika Thomison

What was your motivation for applying to and attending college? "I had always dreamed of attending college. It wasn't until after my divorce that I realized it wasn't too late. I wanted to show my children that it is always possible and to prove to myself that I was capable. So, at the age of 37, I became a college freshman. This fall, I will begin the pursuit of my MSW degree here through the IUPUI (now IU Indianapolis) School of Social Work." —Resource Coordinator, Division of Student Affairs

Liz Vine

What advice would you give first-generation students?"Don't apologize or feel less-than for who you are and where you come from. Get to know all the resources available to you, and use them. Know that it's okay to ask for help; know that it's okay to ask questions, period—there's no reason why you should know it all or be expected to know it all already. Your mental and physical health and well-being are a priority. Go to the library. Learn how to study and how to learn." —Assistant Circulation Supervisor and Student Employment Program Coordinator, University Library

Etta Ward

What was your motivation for staying in school and completing college? "Being married with two children my senior year in high school, I was concerned about becoming a statistic. But my husband decided to stop out of university to allow me to become the first person in my immediate family to receive a college degree. My biggest motivation was all the support and encouragement I got from those closest to me, and I did not want to let them or myself down. I had no excuse and took advantage of all opportunities afforded me at that time." —Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Development, Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research

Eric Weldy

What was something you were afraid to ask? "I wish I would have asked others: What questions should I be asking as a first-generation student? As a first-generation college student, you do not know what you do not know. Therefore, it is important to ask those who are in the know (such as professors, administrators, and returning students) what you might be missing." —Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Division of Student Affairs

Bill White

What advice would you give first-generation students? "I know you're very busy, and it seems overwhelming, but you'll make it through. A college campus is a unique environment that is focused almost exclusively on you. IU Indianapolis is a special place—relax and enjoy the time you spend here." —Senior Lecturer, Construction Management, School of Engineering and Technology

Kara M. Woodlee

What advice would you give first-generation students?"Embrace the possibilities and don't feel guilty for investing in yourself. You deserve all the greatness this world has to offer just as much as anyone else. Ask questions! Ask about college lingo you aren't familiar with, self-reflect to learn about yourself, and build relationships with your advisors and professors. I can't emphasize that enough. The answers will not just fall in your lap, and there are many people in college who are there to help you. You won't bother anyone or take up too much of anyone's time, and all questions are valid." —Assistant Director and Senior Academic Advisor, Honors College

Kevin Yancy

What advice would you give first-generation students?"Focus on your goals, ask for help, get to know your professors, and take advantage of office hours and study groups. Get a study partner and do not get discouraged with the workload. It all pays off once you have your degree." —Lecturer in Accounting, Kelley School of Business

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