Assistant Dean for Graduate Affairs
I didn’t quite realize the impact of being a first-generation student until I was almost done with my bachelor’s degree. My Dad was a mechanic, my stepmother worked clerical jobs and overnight shifts as a mail sorter, and my Mom stayed at home or worked odd jobs over the years. They each had a high-school degree and had taken a few community college courses but had not gone further. As an undergraduate student I found a good amount of support on campus and amongst my peers, and my parents were able to help me navigate some of those challenges as well. It was really when I began applying for graduate school and then enrolled in a PhD program in social psychology that I found it more difficult to connect with my parents about my education and use them as a resource. I was entering a world they were totally unfamiliar, with, and the strategies they would normally offer weren’t helpful. I definitely experienced imposter syndrome in graduate school and felt that I didn’t belong. I also felt some resentment from one of my parents such that when I did talk about my education it was assumed I was judging them for not having more than a high school diploma. These situations and relationships were hard to manage, but I did make it through. I earned my Ph.D. in 2011, and I am so proud of my journey through that difficult time and into my career. I’ve worked at Binghamton for 11 years, starting as an academic advisor before moving to a graduate affairs coordinator position and now to my role as assistant dean. I would love to help others who are grappling with the challenges of being a first-generation student.