On Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2021, Associated Student of Michigan State University, or ASMSU, partnered with TRIO Student Support Services, or SSS, to host a First Generation Panel featuring MSU staff, graduate students and alumni that identify as first-generation students or allies.
“This celebration, in collaboration with ASMSU and many of you who are here today, it’s really just a starting effort that we’re hoping to continue to build on the years to continue to support first-gen students here on campus,” Assistant Director of TRIO SSS Christina Bridges, said.
Panelists introduced themselves and explained their experiences as first-generation students.
Aaron Tucker, an advisor in the School of Packaging, shared his experience throughout his undergrad at MSU.
“When I think back to my undergrad, and it was primarily my undergrad where I definitely felt different,” Tucker said. “It was difficult coming to campus. It seemed like. … all this generational wealth being out and about in the community.”
Especially considering the COVID-19 pandemic and students being forced to learn virtually, the panelists discussed their tips on how students can physically and mentally take charge of their lives.
Since the pandemic, Aryka Thomson, Mechanical EIT II at HDR and MSU first-generation alumna, was able to save one hour of her day from commuting which let her reconsider how she wanted to use her time.
“I went running,” Thomson said. “That made me feel good. That made me more motivated to do other things with my day. … Do whatever is gonna reenergize you, make you feel better and more able to complete what you need to do that day.”
For MSU’s Multicultural Business Programs Program Coordinator Marquis Taylor, he felt that the pandemic allowed him to hone in on his relationships because of the additional time that allowed him to create meaningful conversations with his students at his previous job as an advisor at the University of Minnesota.
“I was able to learn so much more about them that I don’t think I would’ve learned otherwise had we not been on Zoom, had we not been forced to slow down,” Taylor said. "Really being intentional with those relationships that you’re building and just maintaining those connections.”
Panelists discussed how many resources are provided by MSU are deemed underutilized and which resources would be most beneficial to students.
“Go to office hours,” Tucker said. “I didn’t take advantage of this until my junior year, and it definitely helped my grades. … If you know your instructors, and if they know you back, you’re not just a face in the sea.”
Courtney Boehm, a financial educator at MSU Federal Credit Union, believes that all the resources that they supply are underutilized but could be extremely useful for students.
“I don’t want to sit around on a Friday night and think about a budget, but we all have different financial traumas, different experiences with money, different relationships and there’s a lot that you don’t know,” Boehm said. “If there’s a topic that anyone wants to know more about and we don’t know, let us do the research for you, put it together, do that hard work [to] hopefully make life a little easier and less stressful in some areas.”
The panelists also had a chance to bring up resources that had benefited them throughout their undergrad or resources they currently provide that may help first-generation students.
Kimberly Steed-Page, the coordinator at the Student Parent Resource Center, works to provide services and advocacy to students that are expecting or come with children on campus. The Student Parent Resource Center believes in supporting not only students expecting children but also their spouses or partners.
“Our office is about two-generational success with the belief that if student parents succeed, their children will also succeed,” Steed-Page said. “That ties very much into parents that we work with that identify as first-gen students as well. … That’s really our focus is helping students with children develop that sense of community and recognizing that not only do they belong but they have a voice and a seat at the table.”
Felicia Berryman, MSU project administrator and analyst is an MSU first-generation alumna. Berryman brought up how a service similar to MSU Counseling & Psychiatric Services, or CAPS, at MSU helped her out of a rough time during her junior year.
“I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever did for myself,” Berryman said. “I cannot recommend it enough. If you feel like you need some help go and get it. Not only being first-gen, I had a parent that was disabled. … so I had to kind of grow with that. Those were excellent resources, it changed my life just as much as my degree.”
Overall, panelists encourage students to stand strong in their identity as first-generation students.
Do you want the news without having to hunt for it?
Sign up for our morning s'newsletter. It's everything your friends are talking about and then some. And it's free!
For José E. Padilla Segarra, postdoctoral psychology resident at MSU, identifying as a first-generation student was a tough but rewarding experience.
“It’s like breaking a cycle — you are breaking walls,” Segarra said. “It was a process of adapting. … and you are creating a path with every step that you take. Being a first-gen student is very very important, but not only for me because of this familiar context — how your parents are seeing you grow and [are] so happy because you’re taking new roads and that was also very powerful for me.”
Share and discuss “ASMSU hosts first generation panel featuring MSU staff and alumni” on social media.