Diversity & Inclusion

Office of University Diversity and Inclusion

College of Science and Mathematics First-Gen Faculty, Staff, and Administrators

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Dr. Joni Roberts

Assistant Professor, Kinesiology and Public Health

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Degree(s) Earned

DrPH in Public Health - Health Education

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

Never give up, even when it doesn't seem to make sense, it will in the future...

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

I was unaware how "un" privileged I was until I was face to face with peers who had no experiences similar to mine. It made me appreciate having a seat at the table and made me work harder to not only keep my seat but create seats for others.

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Dr. Andrea Somoza-Norton

Assistant Professor, Educational Leadership and Administration

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Degree(s) Earned

Ed.D. in Educational Leadership

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

Persevere, be goal oriented, and self-advocate. Know where the students resources are on campus and join a student organization.

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Dr. Immanuel Williams

Professor, Statistics

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Degree(s) Earned

 

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

Make sure to make as many connections as possible because you never know when those branches will bear fruit.

What was your experience as a first-generation student?

My experience includes always looking for opportunities that you open the next door.

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Dr. David Mitchell

Professor, Physics

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Degree(s) Earned

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

Find someone (or multiple someones) to talk to. Find a mentor. This can be a professor, a family friend, a friend's parents - anyone who has been through the college experience, and who you trust with your "silly" questions. Those questions are not silly, they are important. Ask as many questions as you can! That is how we learn.

And if you can, try things! Take a class you are curious about. Join a club that sounds interesting and new. Volunteer in the local community. College is a good time to explore who you are. The only way to find out if something is for you is to try it. Learn by doing is key, for everything in life!

What was your experience as a first-generation student?

My experience was never really knowing what I was doing. I did not understand how higher education worked, what it meant to be a college student, or what resources were available. I mostly watched the other students around me and tried to follow their example. Unfortunately, I had nobody to go to as a mentor to help guide me. Nobody in my family could help steer me to success, because they did not have this experience. As a result, I think I missed out on a lot. On the other hand, because I was not given a road map, I tried a lot of things, and got to have experiences that were very rewarding.

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Dr. Danny Almeida

Professor, Education

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Degree(s) Earned

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

Get to know your faculty--attend office hours. Get involved in something other than classes. Do informational interviews, visit the career center early and often. Also, it is ok to change your mind about your major or career goals. And remember, that you belong here!

What was your experience as a first-generation student?

I very much experienced (and still do sometimes) the "imposter syndrome" where you feel like it is a fluke that you got into college, that you are not good enough, smart enough, etc. This resulted in me not reaching out to faculty, attending office hours, or speaking up in class.

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Dr. Philip Costanzo

Professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry

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Degree(s) Earned

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

Talk to your peers, faculty and staff. Ask for guidance and support whenever you're unsure. This is in regards to classes, financial aid, graduation requirements, future goals/plans and anything else that is of concern to you. Find a support network and use it.

What was your experience as a first-generation student?

Initially, I felt very isolated and alone. My family didn't know how financial aid worked, and I was overwhelmed with classes. In my sophomore year, I joined a research group and acquired a support network which changed my entire trajectory. I had people to talk to and they provided massive amounts of support and guidance. College went from being a stressful and intimidating hurdle to an exciting and joyous opportunity.

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Dr. Kevin Taylor

Professor, Education

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Degree(s) Earned

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

Get to know your advisor, if you don't get along with your advisor then find a new one, you cannot do this without an advisor!

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Michelle Maksoudian

Staff, Physics

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Degree(s) Earned

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

Always follow your dreams and what your passions are, no matter what anyone else says or thinks. Know that you are pursuing what you want and desire in order to be successful and happy in your life's endeavors. Study groups or partners help a lot and share in the burdens of assignments/projects. It's nice to have others that understand your position as well as the class work you are doing. Always plan some time for yourself to have fun, exercise, visit family/friends and get away from your school work. If you don't, your anxiety and stress builds up quicker.

What was your experience as a first-generation student?

I went to school from 7:00 am to 11:00 am every day and also worked from 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm every day. It took me longer to achieve my goals, but it was worth the experience and time. It sometimes seemed as if I would never get there, but I persevered through and feel an amazing sense of self worth and accomplishment. I very much enjoyed college more than high school and understood more of the content that was being taught. My parents were proud of me for completing my goals and dreams. I liked being on campus in the learning environment and felt important and a sense of worth. I would hang out in the library and study on weekends and take breaks to go to the beach or hike. It was nice to be around other students that wanted to go to college to get a higher education. I enjoyed listening to my Professors and collaborating with other students as well.

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Dr. Amanda Frye

Professor, Liberal Studies

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Degree(s) Earned

DrPH in Public Health - Health Education

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

1) You absolutely belong here - and don't ever let anyone tell you that you don't!
2) Build your networks, find the people (including faculty and staff) with whom you can be 100% yourself, and don't be afraid to ask for what you need when you can't find it.
3) Take advantage of some of the enrichment programs and experiences that this institution offers - they are part of the school's investment in you. Go study abroad, do an internship, volunteer, go for the extra certification or opportunity to apply your skills and explore your interests. See what lights you up inside, and then figure out how to make it a regular part of your life.
4) Most important, take the time to invest in yourself, to nurture your whole human self, and regularly refill your vessel so you don't get depleted. We all only have 24 hours in a day and we all get to make choices about how to spend that time - and sometimes the best choice is self care and downtime, family time, and fun.

What was your experience as a first-generation student?

Black GenX people like me are the "children of the dream" - most of us are the first generation in our families to attend integrated schools and many are the first generation to go to college. Financial aid wasn't like it is now - I worked full time and went to school full time. Sometimes it was pretty lonely and pretty difficult, I won't lie. But I learned to look out for myself, to say no to things that weren't essential, and to refine and clarify my goals so that I could achieve what I wanted in life. And when I look back now at my accomplishments I know that the focus I developed - and the friends I made - as an undergrad have enabled much what I've been able to do and become.

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