As Washington State University prepares for a systemwide celebration of National First-Generation Day on Monday, Nov. 8, the university is taking this opportunity to congratulate and thank all first-generation students, faculty, and staff on each of our campuses. In the days leading up to Nov. 8, we will introduce you to some of these extraordinary individuals.
In this feature, Steve Nakata with the Division of Student Affairs connected with Jacob Murray, an associate professor and program coordinator in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Kayla Haus, a senior majoring in integrated strategic communications, Alicia Campos Macias, a senior majoring in electrical engineering, and Alberto Vazquez, admissions counselor in Student Services, and Taylor Funk, a senior majoring in integrated strategic communications, at WSU Everett, for their thoughts about being first-gen at WSU.
To learn more about WSU’s systemwide plans to celebrate National First-Generation Day, visit the First at WSU webpage.
What does it mean to you to be a first-generation student?
Vazquez: “I think it is awe-inspiring to be a first-generation student. It is something to be proud of, an achievement that demonstrates you have worked hard to achieve a level of education that will benefit your future and hopefully inspire others to follow.”
Haus: “Being first-generation represents dedication, hard work, and excitement. I am beyond proud of myself for my achievements. I beat many odds in my early life and never thought I would even go to college. Being the first in my family to graduate is one of the most significant achievements in my life and something I am so excited about.”
How did being first-gen affect your college experience?
Murray: “Even though I did not have a guiding hand in navigating the difficulties surrounding college, I made sure that my persistence to seek out opportunities always came first, that utilizing my teachers, my department, and benefits that the college provided were never lost opportunities.”
Vazquez: “Education can be a tricky rope to walk on, and at times I felt overwhelmed. At the same time, it was exciting to know that I was the first member of my family to be there, experiencing and learning new things.”
Funk: “To me, being first-gen means making the most out of the opportunities and resources given to me so I can reach my highest potential.”
What would you tell your younger self and/or current first-gen students?
Murray: “Even if you feel alone, you are not. Your instructors care. The staff at the school cares. Administration cares. Don’t feel like you have to go at it alone.”
Haus: “You can and will get through this. It’s a hard road filled with obstacles and challenges. Keep your goal in mind.”
Campos Macias: “Don’t be afraid to go to your professor’s office hours. Don’t be afraid to join a club. Don’t be afraid to get involve in school and make a difference.”
What program, person, or resource, helped you most?
Funk: “My advisors have been great throughout my college experience. My community college advisor pushed me to apply to WSU Everett, and my advisor and teachers at WSU help me a lot when I am struggling with balancing my hectic home life with academics.”
As a first-gen, what do you wish you’d known before coming to WSU?
Campos Macias: “I wish I had known how strong the sense of community is at WSU. During my first week of class, Lynn Aylesworth, an electrical engineering senior and ASWSU Everett president, befriended me. Soon after, all the EE seniors had taken me under their wing, helped me understand concepts in programming classes, and even celebrated my 21st birthday with me.”