B-First

Are you FIRST?

BFirst is the mentoring network for first-generation faculty, staff and students at Binghamton University. Being FIRST means paving the way for others and that journey can be daunting. BFirst seeks to provide first-gen students at Bing with the opportunity to connect with first-gen mentors for support, information, insight and inspiration to help you thrive and succeed on campus as you pursue your degree. If you are among the first in your family to attend and/or graduate from college in the U.S., join BFirst.


Mentors

 Daryl Santos

Daryl Santos

Professor and Vice Provost, Systems Science and Industrial Engineering

Technically, I wasn't the first (but was in the first generation) in my family to attend. My older siblings also graduated college. I'm the first to attend college away from home and the first to obtain MS and PhD degrees. I was able to fund college, in part, due to an access program similar to our EOP program. I love to boat, fish, shoot pool, and garden/yardwork.

Robyn Cope

Robyn Cope

Assistant Professor of French, Romance Languages and Literatures

I grew up in Ohio. Because my dad was a union (United Auto Workers) man, our family had it better than most of our working-class neighbors. That basic understanding has shaped my worldview to this day. I earned a BA in French from Miami University, an MEd and K-12 French teaching certificate from Xavier University, and a PhD in French from Florida State University. In between and along the way, I worked in service and parts for a machine tool company and as a high school French teacher. As a first-generation college student, I sometimes struggled with imposter syndrome, wondering if I truly “belonged." Here at Binghamton, I specialize in French Caribbean literature and culture. In my free time, I enjoy cooking, traveling, and spending time with family and friends.

Kelli Smith

Kelli Smith

Assistant Vice President for Student Success, Student Affairs

While we have students that have faced and overcome greater struggles than myself, being the first in my family to graduate from college, I understand first-hand the struggle of having to find my own way and to not have the social structure of support to navigate the college experience. My father, a railroad worker, died tragically when I was just a few months old, and my mother, a secretary, did the best she could to support me. But I came from a family with great dysfunction and my undergraduate college experience changed my life. I attribute the vast majority of who I am today as a person, community member, and professional to that experience. Therefore, one of my greatest passions is to help other first-generation students understand there are resources and people to support them, and to understand it pays to aim high. I am proud to have earned three degrees in three different disciplines, including a PhD, financially on my own and have a successful career that I love in higher education balanced with a wonderful family. I know it would not have been possible without those faculty, administrators, and mentors that supported me along the way. Therefore, I love to pay it forward by helping our own first-generation students.

Hal Lewis

Hal Lewis

Associate Professor, Systems Science and Industrial Engineering

I was a local student here at Binghamton as well as 1st generation. I graduated HS (Susquehanna Valley) in 1974, and immediately enrolled on this campus with the benefit of a Regents Scholarship, majoring in math. I graduated in 1977 and went to Japan to work in industry there. I came back to this area during the 1980s working in local industry while doing part-time graduate studies. In 1990, I went back to Japan again to teach at Fukushima University, and in 1998 got a chance to come back to Binghamton in a faculty role. I love teaching and I love mentoring students. Feel free to contact me especially if you are a local and/or 1st gen. student.

Kirsten Pagan

Kirsten

B-Engaged Platform Coordinator, Student Affairs Assessment & Strategic Initiatives (SAASI)

Kirsten began her undergraduate studies in theatre with a focus on acting and concluded them in four years with a BA in psychology and a minor in theatre arts. Her current professional/academic interests include "high-impact (educational) practices." Related interests include data visualization and communication, exemplified through artfully-constructed presentation slides, infographics, and easily-digested executive summaries. Her hobbies span the creative spectrum and currently include making crochet jewelry, hand-lettering, and participating in local cosplay events. As a student, she embraced the perspective that the college years were simply the means to an end and failed to see the value of extra- or co-curricular pursuits. As a student affairs professional, however, she endorses a holistic approach toward each individual's self-actualization.

Ryan Mead

Ryan Mead

Coordinator of Academic Support Services, Educational Opportunity Program

I was born and raised in the small village of Livingston Manor located in upstate NY. I was never supposed to go to college, but instead join the military. After suffering some health issues, I wasn't able to enlist and I decided to enroll in my local community college. It was there that I was exposed to a much larger world than the one I knew and it was there that I began pursuing larger dreams that only a college career could fulfill. After a lot of years, and some breaks in between, I was able to obtain my PhD in Sociology. While I currently work as the coordinator of academic support services for the Educational Opportunity Program, I am still an avid learner, reading anything that interests me at the moment, and I still teach a course in Sociology at the community college that gave me my start.

Virginia Stever

Virginia Stever

Assistant to the Chair, Economics

Because my parents did not want me to go to college I was determined to go. So I did. It was tough but worth it. I first went to SUNY Albany and worked 15 hours at my work study job in the art gallery and 20 hours a week at the Albany Student Press. When my financial aid did not come through on time I moved back home but finished up my degree at SUNY Stony Brook. And now 33 years later I will be completing my MPA in Spring 2019 here at Binghamton University. Anything is possible!

Jordan Smith

Jordan Smith

Career Consultant Assistant in Residence, Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development 

My undergraduate pathway had several paths, including 5 different major switches. Following graduation, I realized that I didn't know what I actually wanted to do with my degree (B.A. in Psychology), and struggled with transitioning after college. I was fortunate that my network reached out and gave me the support I needed to get myself back on track. When I started graduate school, I utilized the Career Services Office right away and not only did I develop the career skills I was lacking, I fell in love with the field! Now as a Career Consultant, my personal mission is to guide others on reaching a path that utilizes their unique strengths and interests so that I see everyone I coach making impacts in the areas that are meaningful to them. When I'm not working, you can find me playing volleyball or walleyball, eating at various restaurants with friends, and gardening.

Sandra Casanova-Vizcaíno

Sandra Casanova-Vizcaíno

Assistant Professor of Spanish, Romance Languages and Literatures

I am the second daughter of immigrants from Spain. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, but I have also lived in Spain, Argentina, and the United States, so I consider myself an immigrant as well. As an undergraduate, I attented the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras where I majored in Hispanic literature and French. I also went to the University of Pennsylvania where I completed a PhD in Hispanic Studies. As a first generation student, I received full support from my parents, but mentorship on University life was very hard to find. That is why I am fully committed to public education and to first generation students who struggle to find their place in college. My research interests are Puerto Rican literature and culture, and horror fiction. I enjoy indoor gardening, hiking, and traveling with my husband and my son.

Ashley Bui

Ashley Bui

Graduate Assistant/Teaching Assistant, Psychology, Behavioral Neuroscience

I'm pursuing a PhD in psychology, in the area of behavioral neuroscience, studying the effects of maternal care on anxiety, alcohol use, and neurosteroid action. My older brother was the first to attend/graduate college from our family but I was right there behind him (by two years). I'm also first-gen in the sense of my brother and I being the first in our family to be born in the US. As a graduate student, my college experiences and hardships are still fresh in my mind and I'd like to help current first-gen undergrads at BU in any way that I can, even extending beyond coursework/academia.

Lisa Theo

Lisa Theo

Research and Scholarship Advisor/Adjunct Instructor, External Scholarships and Undergraduate Research Center/Environmental Studies

I held a number of public service positions and started two home businesses before entering academe. I managed women’s clothing stores, managed a U.S. Senate campaign and ran for state senate, served as a legislative aide to a state senator, worked in food service, ran a home childcare business, and had a home business designing and constructing original wedding gowns and bridal accessories. My husband and I have been married nearly 34 years and we have three adult sons. He lives in Wisconsin, but he will soon retire and join me and my Black Lab "Buckshot" in New York. When a professor, my research focused on race, class, ethnicity, sexuality, gender and land use conflicts at the urban/rural fringe. AND - I AM A HUGE GREEN BAY PACKER FAN!

Katrina England

Katrina England

Instructor/Ph.D. Candidate, Philosophy

I am a first-generation college graduate from a low-income family. Now, I am a Ph.D. Candidate with an MA in Social, Political, Ethical, and Legal Philosophy. With the help of Upward Bound (a high school TRiO program), I successfully applied to college, and in four years, I had earned a degree in Philosophy with a minor in Gender Studies from a small liberal arts school in Utah. My family and I paid for tuition through a combination of sports scholarships (cross country, track and field), academic scholarships, and a four-year work-study position as the assistant to the Director of Disability Services on campus. I was very lucky to be accepted into two prestigious programs at my college that gave me a sense of community and helped me to navigate higher education: the McNair Scholars Program (another TRiO program) and the Westminster Honors Program. My biggest obstacle to graduating college was financial stress; I applied for scholarships every year I attended school, and even with substantial financial aid, scholarships, 20-hours of on-campus work a week, I always had to take out loans that I worried I would never be able to pay back and would further burden my family.

Johnathan Hagofsky

Johnathan Hagofsky

Graduate Teaching Assistant, Philosophy

The thought of attending college was a late development for me, coming from a long line of glassworkers in rural Pennsylvania. I became motivated to apply only after my two older brothers had been rewarded full scholarships through the McKelvey Foundation. I must thank both my brothers and the McKelvey family for broadening my life prospects. I went on to attend Bucknell University after being offered a very generous needs-based scholarship and would later assume an administrative role at the University with the technology support team.

Bat-Ami Bar On

Bat-Ami Bar On

Professor, Philosophy

I started university studies after 2 years of compulsory military service. I stayed in academe since then following my BA studies with MA studies and my MA studies with PhD studies. I specialize in political theory.