Diversity & Inclusion

Office of University Diversity and Inclusion

College of Architecture and Environmental Design First-Gen Faculty, Staff, and Administrators

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Carmen Trudell

Associate Professor, Architecture

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Degree(s) Earned

MS in Advanced Architectural Design, and MS in Built Ecologies

What advice would you share with a first-generation college student at Cal Poly?

I remember feeling like an imposter. I grew-up with a single mom who was a teenager when I was born. I had this romantic vision of a family with two parents, college degrees, and professions. I imagined that they read to their kids each night before bed, and cooked meals that represented the food pyramid, and that kids that came from THOSE families were smarter and more capable that I was. What I learned in college is that my own life experiences made me smart and capable, and that I had my own unique abilities to understand and solve problems. I learned to value my childhood and the character that I developed because of it.

How did your experience as a first-generation college student impact you?

I am still the only person in my immediate family to go to college. As a result of education, I have been afforded incredible privileges such as traveling the world, studying and researching with classmates and teachers from diverse backgrounds, periods of time to dwell in thought-provoking environments, a professional career as an architect, and then a second career as a college professor. I have had the luxury of being able to decide a path for my life based on my interests and passions, while at the same time providing financial stability for myself and my family. I am so grateful for the life that education has provided me, that I have returned to my undergraduate alma mater, Cal Poly, so that I can be part of making another persons life full of accomplishments too.

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Michael Boswell

Professor, City and Regional Planning

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Degree(s) Earned

Ph.D. Urban and Regional Planning

What advice would you share with a first-generation college student at Cal Poly?

Don't be afraid to talk to faculty. Ask them for advice on how to be successful in college and their class. Meet with a financial aid advisor. Look for educational opportunities beyond the classroom--research assistant, conference attendance, competitions, et cetera.

How did your experience as a first-generation college student impact you?

I was naive about how to be successful in college compared to high school. I had a hard time discerning what was important and what was not. I struggled financially (for example, I had been in college for 1.5 years before I learned I was work-study qualified).

We ALL struggle in college. Don't do it alone. Find mentors, advisors, and friends.

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Gregory Starzyk

Professor, Construction Management

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Degree(s) Earned

MPM and JD specializing in construction law

What advice would you share with a first-generation college student at Cal Poly?

My parents where both orphans who never finished high school. When I was in high school, all they could tell me was that I had better figure it out because nobody was going to figure it out for me. It was not until long after their death when I was just 20 that I understood the gift that they had left for me; self-reliance. I became an apprentice, then journeyman carpenter, went to night school to earn a degree in civil engineering, worked for 23 years in international construction that took me to 6 continents, and earned an MPM and JD along the way. I've been 15 years in higher education now and have recently become a full professor. My advice to first-generation students is, "better figure it out, because nobody is going to figure it out for you." That may sound harsh, I know, but only to those who aren't first generation students like I was; clueless about what happens at a university.

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Miran Day

Assistant Professor, Landscape Architecture

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Degree(s) Earned

MS in Landscape Architecture

What advice would you share with a first-generation college student at Cal Poly?

Seek out for help, be proactive, and find a mentor(s)

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