Hi everyone my name is Tasia Pinkham. I am currently in my 2nd year in the UWRF partner program and my internship in Career Services as a career counselor. I completed my Bachelor degree at UW-Whitewater in social work and a minor in women's studies in 2015. My experience and relationships through undergrad have influenced me and lead me to a path in student affairs. I did not know that I could enjoy anything more than Residence Life, but by taking a chance I found Career Services and what that experience has offered me and how much I have grown in the last year and half is amazing.
Like I mention earlier I am a career counselor at UWRF and I work with current and prospective students on a variety of career related topics. One of my favorite appointments to have with students are the career assessments because the student is able to gain more insight about what interests them and options they could consider as a major and career. The journey a student goes on in that appointment is always different for each student and they tend to learn something new and/or confirm some ideas they already knew. I also, learn a great deal in these appointments, I get to see a glimpse of vulnerability because of the uncertainty some students may be feeling during this appointment. It reminds me to ask questions and support the student in a way that works from them.
A lot of students at UWRF are considered first-generation students and I did not have a lot of understanding of what that meant before I started my internship, but through classes and interactions on campus I have gained more knowledge about what it means. I want to continue learning about first-generation students because I think a lot of people assume that college is something everyone does now and that is not necessarily the case.
about first-generation college students
During this semester another grad in my program helped provide diversity dialogues to the campus for students, faculty, and staff about different topics. One session I attended was related to first-generation students and we had an open discussion about what that meant to you and to the university. One aspect of this conversation I really valued was the distinction of two paths of first-generation college students. One path is the "broke college student" where the student is first-generation and may come from a working class status, but feels they are able to use student loans, buy coffee on a regular basis, make a weekly trip to target, and feel they can have a social life. The other path is a student who is paying their way through each semester, feels they have less time for social related events, involvement, and tends not to spend money on the extras unless necessary. From the "Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice", author, Georgianna Martin (2015) stated, "All participants reported spending the majority of their money on bills (e.g., rent, cell phone, medical). All seven participants in this study were responsible for their own college expenses without financial assistance from parents" (p. 283). Additionally, students who participated in the study talked about bills coming first and if extra money was left what to do from there. Considering the variation in definitions of first-generation students I think it is important to understand the individual students priorities and work with them to be successful in the manner that is best for them. Some students believe work comes before school and others believe it to be the other way around, but invalidating the students priorities will not help be successful in a meaningful relationship with them.
River Falls defines first-generation students as the first person in the immediate family to attend a 4-year institution. This surprised me because by that definition I am a first-generation student as well. After reflection of hearing this I thought it made sense because my family and I had little knowledge of the college admission process, financial aid, and other aspects of the transition. I did most of the application and process on my own unless I needed information from my family. One factor I had not taken into consideration when working with first-generation students at UWRF was how much they work throughout a semester to pay for college. Many students here pay for each semester as they go in order to have as little debt as possible. This is important to keep in mind when and how you talk to these students about study aboard and involvement opportunities on and off campus because they may feel it is not important or their priorities are different than what a student affairs professional believes they should be. In order to provide assistance to these students, UWRF utilizes the Academic Success Center and Falcon Scholars. Within the center is pre-major advising, student support services, and tutoring services. Many first-generation students are falcon scholars and/or are a part of the support services.