First Forward: Drexel's First-Generation Community
May 18, 2020
First-generation is a term that I did not know existed until I started working in higher education (many, many years ago). I got into higher education to help students with similar backgrounds to me become aware of all of their opportunities.
I learned after college that it's best to ask and get a no than not ask and miss a yes.
I grew up in a middle class area and did well in school. I think there were assumptions of me made based on where I grew up. Most families in the area probably had at least one parent who had a bachelor’s degree. My dad went into the army after high school and my mom got her associate’s degree. College was a new experience for all of us. And, even once I got to college, I couldn’t talk to them about everything because I knew they wouldn’t know. I knew the sacrifice they made to put me through college, so I was always cautious about asking them for money to keep up with my friends. I didn't know I could just go into different offices and simply ask questions about their services. I learned after college that it's best to ask and get a no than not ask and miss a yes. My biggest regrets...not doing study abroad, not advocating for myself regarding my major, and not taking time to write simple essays and apply for scholarships.
First Forward is about so many things. It's about connecting students, faculty, staff, and alumni outside of the classroom in more informal settings. It's about introducing different ideas and topics to students who may otherwise not understand or know about opportunities. And it is about celebrating being the first in our families to graduate from college. That is one of the things our first-generation students look forward to — we provide teal graduation cords for those who identify and graduate. This includes both graduate and undergraduate students.
We define first-generation as neither parent nor guardian having earned a four-year bachelor's degree. At this time, we do not hold fast and true to that — we do allow for variations. We have international students whose parents may have earned a degree in their home country but they are the first to earn a degree in the U.S. We have students whose parents may have earned their degree later in life as non-traditional students. We still have more exploring to do regarding definitions. If you fit somewhere in this description, please feel free to connect with us on our DrexelFirstForward Facebook page or by emailing email@example.com to get added to our email list.
Tasha Gardner, EdD is the Director for the Center for Inclusive Education and Scholarship at Drexel. In her free time, she loves crafting (anything creative) and baking. Tasha has been at Drexel since starting as a first-year student in 1998. Even though she took a 3-year break before starting full-time, she was still connected to the university.