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 final feature of this series, Steve Nakata with the Division of Student Affairs connected with Angela Hagedorn, a junior majoring in history, and Brian Burley, a senior majoring in psychology, at WSU Global Campus, for their thoughts about being first-gen at WSU.
What does it mean to you to be first-generation?
Hagedorn: “The most important thing is that I am accomplishing something that I started and have always wanted to do. Being first-gen makes me feel proud of myself for completing my education, and proud to show my kids that no matter what age you are, there are still dreams to be followed.”
Burley: “I never really thought much about being a first-generation student. What I hope is that I will inspire my own children that no matter how old or what they want to do in their lives that education is important, and they should strive to work hard at everything that is in front of them.”
How did being first gen affect your college experience?
Hagedorn: “It has taken me years to get to this point. I have traveled different paths through the years, taking detours to raise my kids and fulfill some different careers. I have had to figure out everything about attending college on my own as my parents never attended, nor was college ever discussed when I was growing up. I didn’t even know how to “dream” about going to college.”
Burley: “I just knew that I wanted to work very hard to get the best possible grades, learn something new, and show my children to never quit no matter how hard something is.”
What would you tell your younger self and/or current first-gen students?
Hagedorn: “Don’t be afraid to continue your education regardless if it seems impossible. Don’t wait for anyone or anything to make the financial situation come together for you, instead be proactive and figure out ways in which you can make your education a top priority.”
Burley: “I would tell my younger self to start college way earlier. It was not until after I got married and had my first child that I thought about getting my college education. Also, think hard about what you want to study, whether it’s your first career or a second career. I changed majors three times.”
Which program, person, or resources helped you most?
Hagedorn: “So far, I would say that my most helpful people would be Jennifer Thigpen (associate professor, history) and Brian Stack (lecturer, history). Both have been extremely helpful in the courses I have taken with them.”
Burley: “Thinking about what career I want after my military service has been difficult, but my family, friends, and co-workers have been a great help.”
As a first-gen, what do you wish you’d known before coming to WSU?
Hagedorn: “I wish that I had known about WSU Global Campus sooner, and I also wish I transferred directly from Spokane Community College years ago.”
Burley: “I wish I would have known a lot earlier in my search for online schools what WSU has to offer. Until I got stationed with the Navy in Washington, I had no idea about WSU, and it is better than the other two online universities I attended. I am glad I am here.”
To learn more about WSU’s systemwide plans to celebrate National First-Generation Day, visit the First at WSU webpage. Thanks to all the first-gen faculty, staff, and students who shared their stories as part of this series the past three weeks.
Read the previous articles in this series about first-gen Cougs: