Born into a large family in rural western Kentucky, I was the first in my immediate family to go to college and only one of a handful of my extended family to do so. I attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky where I received a BA in Mathematics and Spanish. I then attended Indiana University in Bloomington where I received an MA in Mathematics, an MS in Applied Statistics, and a Ph.D. in Pure Mathematics. This is my first year at Austin College, and I am excited to be a part of such a special community.
How did your early mentors help guide you to college?
Even though my family lacked a college experience, I was extremely fortunate to have been surrounded by teachers and mentors who recognized my potential. My teachers helped me find resources to help apply for college, revised my personal statements, and helped me focus my zeal for learning. It was also a former teacher, in fact, who made sure I submitted my application for scholarships on time and who encouraged me to apply to my eventual alma mater, Transylvania. Their guidance was key to my success when I applied for college.
What advice do you have for current first-generation students?
College is a place where you will get to explore, learn, and expand your worldview. It is also a place that is full of norms, expectations, and unwritten rules. As a first-generation college student, you might not know these rules before beginning college, and you will likely violate some of these rules without knowing it. Thinking back on my college experience, there were many situations I might have handled differently had I known those rules. The best way to navigate college is to get the advice of your peers and mentors. Communication with your advisor frequently can be very helpful in your college journey. I find that many first-gen students are also valuable resources for navigating college since they likely had to learn most of the rules themselves. Building a community with your fellow first-gen students will increase your sense of belonging—a good way of ensuring your success in college. And if you do violate one of these hidden norms, do not worry: Your professors are more forgiving than you might think. Learn from your mistake so next time you know what the appropriate course of action is.