Celebrating first‑gen Cougs: WSU Pullman

WSU Pullman

As Washington State University prepares for a systemwide celebration of National First-Generation Day on Monday, Nov. 8, the university is taking this opportunity to congratulate and thank all first-generation students, faculty, and staff on each campus. In the days leading up to Nov. 8, we will introduce you to some of these extraordinary individuals.

In this feature, Steve Nakata with the Division of Student Affairs asked Jennifer Espin, a junior in civil engineering, Mayra Angel, a junior in elementary education, Taylor Moore, a senior in biochemistry, and Laura Lavine, professor and chair in the Department of Entomology, at WSU Pullman, for their thoughts about being first-gen at WSU.

What does it mean to you to be first-generation?

Laura Lavine

Espin: “For me, being a first generation and a Latina woman means perseverance, hard work, and the chance of new opportunities. Being a first-generation student, you are forging a path that no one in your family has walked. At times, you can feel alone, lost, or confused on how to proceed.” 

Lavine: “It means that I got to invest in myself and my future by attending college and becoming a lifelong learner. College was accessible to someone like me and the American dream is real for me. It also means that I needed a lot of help, a lot of mentorship to understand how to navigate college and the college experience.”

Moore: “As a trailblazer in my family, I have this extra drive and strong will to be the most successful person I can be. I don’t let barriers hold me back or be hesitant about what I am capable of.” 

Jennifer Espin

How did being first gen affect your college experience?

Espin: “Being the first in your family to attend college can be intimidating, but for me, it made me work harder. The numerous resources, workshops, and events, that WSU has for students like me have shaped me, provided me with a new community, and a sense of belonging in college.” 

What would you tell your younger self and/or current first-gen students?

Angel: “I would tell my younger self to stop doubting myself. Anything is possible when you put your mind to it. Although it’s going to be hard, there’s always resources and other students who understand your struggles. And although you might feel like you don’t fit in, you belong here as much as everyone else. Never forget you deserve an education.”

What program/person/resource helped you most?

Mayra Angel

Lavine: “I had a faculty advisor from my very first semester who took an interest in me and my career. He was there to answer any questions that I had that I did not understand, he helped me navigate the undergraduate experience, and he connected me to his own network that supported me as I headed toward graduation and then graduate school.”

Angel: I decided to come to WSU because I had met a wonderful woman that I look up to named Marcela Pattinson, who leads Undocumented Initiatives at WSU. She made me feel at home, welcomed, and that I belonged at WSU. Undocumented Initiatives has done nothing but support me and encourage me to become the best version of myself. 

Taylor Moore

As a first-gen, what do you wish you’d known before coming to WSU?

Espin: “I did not know what scholarships were and how helpful they are for academic success. They not only recognize you for your accomplishments and your story, but you don’t have to worry about affording school. That really helps you focus on your studies and extracurricular events.”

Moore: “What I wish I knew is how invaluable it is to make connections with your peers and to never give up on yourself. You can be good at difficult things. Don’t ever be discouraged when things don’t go as planned, because some of the best things that have happened to me was when things didn’t go as expected.”

To learn more about WSU’s systemwide plans to celebrate National First-Generation Day, visit the First at WSU webpage. 

Read the previous article in this series about first-gen Cougs at WSU Spokane.

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