Celebrating first‑gen Cougs: WSU Tri‑Cities

A view of the lawn, trees, and buildings on the WSU Tri-Cities campus.
WSU Tri-Cities

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 of our campuses. 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 connected with Kauser Gwaduri, coordinator in the MOSAIC Center for Inclusion, Alma Rangel, a senior majoring in psychology, Luis de la Torre, assistant professor in computer science, and Erika Espinoza, a senior majoring in elementary education, at WSU Tri-Cities, for their thoughts about being first-gen at WSU.

Alma Rangal

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

Rangel: “Being first-gen means that I am a role model being pushed to my limits. It mainly means that I will give back to my parents for everything they have done for me to be where I am today.”

de la Torre: “For me, being first-generation means having dreams and looking to overcome barriers, asking for help without fear, and never giving up despite the circumstances.”

How did being first gen affect your college experience?

Luis de la Torre

Gwaduri: “I was nervous and excited going into college, but I wasn’t sure what it would take to be successful, or what success even looked like outside of graduating with a degree and getting a job. I was nervous to talk to professors, but the ones that took the time to listen and ask me questions were the ones that made me feel important.”

de la Torre: “One of the biggest challenges I faced was my family’s misunderstanding about college education. The guidance I received about my career path, college life, or financial aid was poor or null. Also, the financial needs regarding tuition and living expenses were an incredible challenge.”

What program/person/resource helped you most?

Gwaduri: “I studied abroad while in college and I LOVED the experience! It opened my eyes to how different and similar people are from around the world, how I can challenge my assumptions by getting to know a person and asking questions to understand them. I realized that with all the different options in the world, I could choose the type of life I wanted to live, and be proud that it was a purposeful decision, not just what was comfortable.

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

Erika Espinoza

Espinoza: “There will be times where we may not know what to do or who to go to, but luckily wherever you are, there is always someone that we can ask for help. Asking for help shouldn’t be something that we are afraid to do, but something we should be doing.”

Rangel: “Get connected with people. Even if your family can’t help you, people in your school can, and they will be your guide for the next couple of years. Ask for help, advice, and suggestions!

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

Kauser Gwaduri

Espinoza: “Step out of your bubble, join new clubs on campus, attend school events, and meet new people. Building all these connections will make going to school more enjoyable and easier!

Gwaduri: “I wish I knew just how much WSU wants first generation students to succeed. There are tutoring opportunities, the Writing Center, and plenty of staff that want to make the campus inclusive and supportive of all learning styles. I have skills and capacities that I bring to campus that are unique and make the campus better! Stronger!

WSU first-gen students interested in learning more about studying abroad can visit the First-Generation Abroad website. To learn more about WSU’s systemwide plans to celebrate National First-Generation Day, visit the First at WSU webpage.

 Read the previous articles in this series about first-gen Cougs:

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