Weber State First Generation Faculty & Staff Group
We are inviting interested faculty and staff to participate in a first generation faculty and staff group. In the fall of 2017, we held a series of three focus groups to discuss the formation of this group and future events. We invite anyone who identifies as a first generation student themselves or feels strongly about supporting first generation students.
Barb Trask, Ph.D.
My mother graduated High School and left the farm that her parents and grandparents lived on to work in the "big city" of Milwaukee, WI. There, she met my dad who had just finished his tour with the air force in Korea. Both of my parents worked for Heil Company, a truck manufacturer. Dad took night classes occasionally, but never finished college. Still, they encouraged and supported my siblings and me to pursue our educations. All three of us have earned our bachelor's degrees, I've earned a Ph.D., and my sister a D.M.D.
Ernesto Hernandez Jr
Stewart LibraryI grew up So. Ogden, Utah, the oldest of three siblings. I was born to two hardworking parents, my father never graduated high school and procured work as an auto technician and now owns his own automotive shop. My mother earned her diploma and attend the University of Utah for one year before becoming the head secretary at a local elementary school. I attended college at Weber State University, having received an academic scholarship through the Hispanic Area Club (HAC). Through HAC, I was able to meet other low-income, first-generation students of color like me and connected with mentors who guided me through the ins and outs of college. I graduated with a BS in Psychology. I then attended San Jose State University to pursue my Masters of Library & Information Science. I am now employed at my Alma Mater - Weber State University, as an Instruction & Reference Librarian.
Campus RecreationI grew up in rural southern Indiana, 1 of 3 kids but with a huge extended family. My Mom finished high school, my Pop didn’t. Most of my family worked in factories and trade jobs. But I always knew I would go to college. I knew, for me, a higher education degree was a path to get out into the world. With support from my fam, I worked and paid my way to an undergraduate as well as a graduate degree. Today I’m in a job I enjoy and I travel the world every opportunity I get!
College of Engineering Applied Science & TechnologyAt the age of 24, I found myself a divorced single mother and the sole financial provider for my family. I quickly realized that if I did not want my family to live a life of poverty, I needed to develop skills that would allow me to provide for my family’s needs. Neither of my parents graduated from college, and they had moved out of the state. I was afraid and alone. I decided to sign-up for EDUC 1105, Introduction to the University, and it was one of the smartest choices I have ever made. This course, now called Foundations of College Success, equipped me with the skills, tools, and resources I needed to be a successful college student. Today, I have a master’s degree in education, and I am an Academic Advisor for the College of Engineering, Applied Science & Technology at Weber State University.
Christopher Yencha, Ph.D.
EconomicsGrowing up in Appalachia to a single mom with no real savings – college shouldn’t have been in the cards for me. But I enjoyed academics far too much to have it end at age 18, so we made it work. With a bit of elbow grease and the drive and willingness to jump through the occasional hoop, even a first-gen student can find success in college. Eventually, this path led me to my Ph.D. in Economics from West Virginia University, and the accompanying privilege to continue to hang out in academics with some brilliant colleagues and impressive students, even well after my hair turns grey!
EngineeringMy first-gen story starts with me coming from Mexico into the United States. It has been a struggle being a first-gen, which was made slightly more difficult with parents that don't speak English. I have had to navigate through school for as long as I can remember. It has been especially difficult to go through college unable to receive scholarships and having every penny paid for each semester here at Weber State University, come out of my own pocket. Regardless, it has been an experience of a lifetime that I wouldn't trade.
Olga G. Antonio
Access and DiversityMy dad dropped out of 8th grade and my mother was pulled out of 2nd grade to help work. In high school, no counselor ever talked to me about college. In 11th grade, friends would talk about the schools they were applying to, and I thought, “Where did you hear about them? How do you look for them?” I had no idea! When I a finally started applying, I didn’t know what a major was - I thought choosing “biology” meant I would only take biology classes. So I chose “undecided” instead. Then there were confusing financial aid processes. Being a first-generation college student may have made things more challenging, but I’ve never seen it as an obstacle. I was proud to be the first one going through the college adventure, and this helped me keep going on to pursue my dreams as I set a path for my siblings.
Brenda Kowalewski, Ph.D.
Associate Provost & Professor of SociologyNeither of my parents went to college, although my dad did take classes to earn a plumbing license which served him and our family well for decades. My mom quit school in 8th grade to go to work to help support her 9 siblings. She did get her GED when she was 36 years old and I, the youngest of four children, was six years old. My mom did odd jobs like babysitting and cleaning people's houses before she worked in a greenhouse for about 20 years before retirement. My siblings and I have benefitted greatly from our parents' hard work and persistence. My brother did not go to college but successfully graduated from the police academy. My oldest sister earned a bachelor's degree and my other sister earned a Master's degree. I was fortunate enough to earn my Ph.D. in sociology. My mom always told us that we could do anything we put our minds to. It turns out she was right but it also took a lot of support from teachers, coaches, and mentors along the way.
"Get involved! See your adviser every semester. Take FYE to help give you an understanding of how universities work. Join Clubs, and if you can, try to get a job on campus. That helped me immensely."
WSU Online / Dept. of Communication / Dept. of Women and Gender Studies / Dept. of Web and User ExperienceGrowing up in a single-parent household limited my ability to participate (and finance) a higher education. I completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Utah while working full-time (graveyard shift) in Ogden. I'd complete my homework on the 'express' bus ride from work to school, and back again (this was before the Front Runner was an option). Upon graduation, I landed a full-time HR job at Weber and used my tuition benefit to complete my Master's degree. I now help faculty design effective educational experiences for students, and I also teach for three different colleges at WSU. I'm thankful that I get to work with students and faculty in such a beautiful and supportive environment.
School of ComputingI am from a small town in Kansas – 30 kids in my high school graduation class! After graduation, most of my classmates worked their family farms or ranches, a few went to tech schools. My hardworking parents, who did not go to college, advised me to “get any job, work hard, and you’ll be successful”. But what kind of job? I had no experience and not many jobs in my small town. One of my teachers encouraged me to go to college. I felt totally lost and alone that first semester – but I met some great people in my classes and dorms. They helped me navigate college. Not going lie, those first couple of semesters were hard, but with friends and my family's support, I made it through! My college degree has offered me many opportunities that I would not have had otherwise.
Access & DiversitySuccess in my first-gen story hinged on a single semester. I gave up a full-ride scholarship to ISU 3 weeks after school started because I did not know how to find my classes. Dropping out became a habit as I left the next 3 or 4 universities only weeks into classes starting. I returned on the advice of a peer who was successfully navigating the College of Idaho. Successfully completing one semester at ISU was a turning point for me. I went part-time for the next 7 years, attended 5 universities, and had my 3rd child four months before graduation. There were days when the struggle was a little too real. In 2011, I graduated with a 3.9 GPA in Business Economics. As the Outstanding Graduate for the Economics Department, I addressed my peers at convocations with my husband, three children, in-laws and parents in the crowd. I am deeply indebted to my education for who I am today!